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University of California Berkeley 

Regional Oral History Office 
The Bancroft Library 

University of California 
Berkeley, California 

Robert W. Ratcliff 



With an Introduction by 
Harold C. Norton 

Interviews Conducted by 

Suzanne B. Riess 

in 1989 

Copyright (<T\ 1990 by The Regents of the University of California 

Since 1954 the Regional Oral History Office has been interviewing leading 
participants in or well -placed witnesses to major events in the development of 
Northern California, the West, and the Nation. Oral history is a modern research 
technique involving an interviewee and an informed interviewer in spontaneous 
conversation. The taped record is transcribed, lightly edited for continuity 
and clarity, and reviewed by the interviewee. The resulting manuscript is typed 
in final form, indexed, bound with photographs and illustrative materials, and 
placed in The Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley, and 
other research collections for scholarly use. Because it is primary material, 
oral history is not intended to present the final, verified, or complete 
narrative of events. It is a spoken account, offered by the interviewee in 
response to questioning, and as such it is reflective, partisan, deeply involved, 
and irreplaceable. 


All uses of this manuscript are covered by a legal agreement 
between The Regents of the University of California and Robert W. 
Ratcliff dated October 15, 1989. The manuscript is thereby made 
available for research purposes. All literary rights in the 
manuscript, including the right to publish, are reserved to The 
Bancroft Library of the University of California, Berkeley. No part 
of the manuscript may be quoted for publication without the written 
permission of the Director of The Bancroft Library of the University 
of California, Berkeley. 

Requests for permission to quote for publication should be 
addressed to the Regional Oral History Office, 486 Library, 
University of California, Berkeley 94720, and should include 
identification of the specific passages to be quoted, anticipated 
use of the passages, and identification of the user. The legal 
agreements with Robert W. Ratcliff requires that he be notified of 
the request and allowed thirty days in which to respond. 

It is recommended that this oral history be cited as follows: 

Robert W. Ratcliff, "The Ratcliff 
Architects, in Berkeley Since 1909, 
Volume I," an oral history conducted in 
1989 by Suzanne B. Riess, Regional Oral 
History Office, The Bancroft Library, 
University of California, Berkeley, 

Copy no. 1 

THURSDAY, MAY 14, 1998 

San Francisco Chronicle 

Robert Ratcliff 

Robert W. Ratcliff, for nearly 
40 years the leader of a three-gen 
eration architectural practice re 
sponsible for numerous notewor 
thy buildings throughout the Bay 
Area, died April 30 at Alta Bates 
Medical Center in Berkeley. He 
was 85. 

Born in Berkeley on May 6, 
1913, Mr. Ratcliff was the eldest of 
five children of Walter and Muriel 
Ratcliff. His father, who was born 
in England and educated at the 
University of California at Berke 
ley, was Berkeley's city architect 
as well as one of the most prolific 
designers of the 1920s and 1930s. 

"Walter Ratcliff was responsi 
ble for some of the finest public 
schools in Berkeley," said Chroni 
cle architecture critic Allan 
Temko. "His son, Robert, contin 
ued the humanist tradition, but 
was essentially a Bay Area mod 
ernist, who designed gracious resi 
dences in wood in the Berkeley 
hills, as well as commercial build 
ings. Perhaps his most charming 
work is the Berkeley Art Center in 
Live Oak Park." 

Robert Ratcliff was raised at a 
time when Berkeley was consid 
ered the "Athens of the West" His 
parents brought up their children 
among intellectuals and artists and 
instilled in then* son a sense of re 
sponsibility to the community and 
a love of the outdoors, music and 
the arts. 

Mr. Ratcliff attended Berkeley 
public schools and entered the 
University of California's School 
of Architecture. In his junior year, 
he took a design class with a prom 
ising young architectural student, 
Evelyn Trueblood Paine. 

They married in 1937 and lived 
together for 60 years until her 
death last November. Although 
she did not pursue a career in ar 
chitecture, she was a frequent col 
laborator and consultant to the 
firm on landscape design. 

After graduation hi 1936, Mr. 
Ratcliff worked for other archi 
tects in the Bay Area, and during 
World War II, he served as assis 
tant chief engineer for the Central 
Seabee program in Chicago. 

After the war, he returned to 
Berkeley to join his father in de 
signing urgently needed dormito 
ries for the University of Califor 
nia. Throughout Mr. Ratcliff 's ar 
chitectural career, the university 
continued to be his client. 

The firm did numerous renova 
tion and restoration projects not 
only on the Berkeley campus but 
also at UC Santa Cruz, UC San 
Francisco, UC Irvine and UC San 

Mr. Ratcliff continued to prac 
tice with his father until Walter 
Ratcliff's retirement in 1955. 
Schools, banks, churches and city 
buildings constituted much of the 
firm's work, as the the younger 
Ratcliff guided a transformation 
from the traditional, English-influ 
enced designs identified with his 
father's practice to a more contem 
porary, straightforward style in 
keeping with the Bay Area designs 
of the 1950s and 1960s. 

Well-known projects for which 
Mr. Ratcliff was senior principal 
included the Student Health Cen 
ter at the University of the Pacific 
in Stockton, the Graduate Student 
Housing Project in Santa Cruz, the 
Valley Manor Geriatrics Center in 
Concord, the Berkeley branch of 
the Bank of California on Shattuck 
Avenue, the Students Co-op Build 
ing on Ridge Road in Berkeley, the 
Livermore Civic Center Plan and 
Public Library, the Berkeley Bap 
tist Divinity School buildings, the 
California State Automobile Asso 
ciation offices in Berkeley and 
Oakland and a large number of 
schools, commercial buildings and 

In 1974, Mr. Ratcliff's son Chris 
topher (Kit) Ratcliff became the 
third-generation Ratcliff in the 
firm, and hi 1978, the firm's name 
was changed to The Ratcliff Archi 
tects to reflect the expanded own 
ership. Robert Ratcliff retired 
from active involvement in the 
firm in 1983, and in 1986, Kit Rat- 
cliff was named president 

Based in Emeryville, The Rat- 
cliff Architects is the oldest and 

one of the largest architectural 
firms in the East Bay. 

Mr. Ratcliff's involvement with 
Berkeley remained active 
throughout his life. He was trea 
surer of the Berkeley Municipal 
League, vice chairman of the 
Berkeley Community Concert As 
sociation, a board member of the 
Berkeley YMCA and YWCA advi 
sory board, chairman of the Coun 
cil of Social Planning on the Her- 
rick Hospital Mental Health Advi 
sory Board, a member of the Board 
of Permit Appeals and was in 
volved with the City Commons 
Club and the Rotary Club. 

He also gave of his architectur 
al expertise on several pro bono ef 
forts, including Berkeley Day 
Nursery. YWCA, Stiles Hall, the 
city of Berkeley's sewer commit 
tee, master plan review, Havens 
Fountain, Aquatic Park and the re 
design of University and Shattuck 

The Berkeley Chamber of Com 
merce awarded him the Norman 
Branguin Award, and in 1979 he 
won the Benjamin Ide Wheeler 
Public Service Award. 

In 1989, Mr. Ratcliff was the 
subject of an oral history project 
conducted by the Bancroft Li 

He is survived by his children, 
Lucy R. Pope of Philadelphia; 
Mary R. (Polly) Walter of Victoria, 
B.C.; Christopher Ratcliff of 
Berkeley; Alice W. Ratcliff of Red 
ding; Elizabeth R Austin of Port 
land, Ore.; and Thomas P. Ratcliff 
of Berkeley; his brothers Peter of 
Orinda and Walter of Gualala; his 
sister, Muriel of Plains, Va.; 16 
grandchildren; and three great 

There will be a memorial gath 
ering hi Mr. Ratcliff 's honor at 1 
p.m. Saturday at the First Congre 
gational Church, 2345 Channing 
Way, in Berkeley. 

Donations in his memory may 
be made to the Berkeley YMCA, 
2016 Center St, Berkeley 94704 or 
the UC Botanical Garden, 200 Cen 
tennial Drive, Berkeley 94720. 

JX. Pimxleur 

Robert W. Ratcliff, 1966 

Vandelet Photographs 

Cataloguing Information 


Robert W. Ratcliff (b. 1913) interviewed on family history and life in 
Berkeley, 1920s, 1930s; trips to Sierra; father, Walter Harris Ratcliff, Jr., 
architect: working philosophy, peers, Bernard Maybeck, the craftsman 
tradition, East Bay work for schools, banks, and banking interests; family 
social and musical life, Mendocino County homes; Robert Ratcliff and Evelyn 
(Paine) Ratcliff: UC School of Architecture, 1936; European tour, Alameda 
Naval Base, and Seabees, WWII; Ratcliff, Haymond and Ratcliff, 1945, and 
Ratcliff, Slama and Cadwalader, 1961: UC Berkeley work, Alameda County, 
hospital, other University work; interest in City of Berkeley social planning, 
master planning, waterfront, Panoramic Hill; The Ratcliff Architects, 1978, 
management, traditions. 

Introduction by Harold C. Norton, Executive Director, Alameda County Bar 

Interviewed 1989 by Suzanne B. Riess. The Regional Oral History Office, The 
Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley. 

TABLE OF CONTENTS -- Robert W. Ratcliff 

INTRODUCTION by Harold C. Norton 




Daily Life in Berkeley 

55 Roble Road 4 

Summers and Sierra Trips 

Building a Canoe 

Mother's Family, the Williams Side 

Father's Englishness, the Ratcliff Side 

Forsaking the Academic for the Out-of-Doors 15 

Skiing, for Example 

The Berkeley Fire 

Siblings, Brother Peter Ratcliff 19 


Chemistry Major, University of California 

Association with Louis McFarland, and Building Houses 

The Legacy for Robert Ratcliff 24 

A Citizen of Berkeley . 27 

The Sierra, and the Berkeley Hills, and John Muir 

John Galen Howard, and the Hearst Mining Building 

A "Gentle Man" 33 

Locating the Ratcliff Office in Berkeley, 1909 34 

Learning by Doing 

Architectural Associates and Influences 

Sources for Styles, Books and Travels 39 

Developing Clients ^1 

The Ratcliff Office, a Steppingstone from Architecture 

School 42 


Berkeley's City Architect, 1914, and His Vision of the City 44 

The Architect as Master of the Building Trades 45 
Thoughts on Maybeck, Gutterson, Thomas, Howard, Bakewell, 

and Brown 47 
Downtown Berkeley Contacts, and the Merchants Exchange 

Building in San Francisco 52 

Excellence in Materials, Plaster Work 54 

Swedes and Italians, and the Craftsman Tradition 56 

Walter Steilberg, Friend and Neighbor 59 

Social Life and Musical Life 60 

Remodeling the House on Roble Road, and Creating a Museum 63 

Planning, Zoning, and Burying Creeks 66 

"To Go Beyond Oneself" 68 

Site Work and Landscaping 70 

American Trust Company Building, 1925 72 

W. H. Ratcliff, Jr., On the Job 74 

The Talent in Office 77 

Mills College Work 78 

A Family Country House in Mendocino County, 1925 79 

Solvent in the Depression 82 

[Interviewed by Christopher Ratcliff, December 1987] 

Entering Cal , and the Agility Test, 1932 83 
Entering Architecture, and Taking a Course in Public 

Speaking 84 

Evelyn Paine, Architecture Student 86 

Coursework in Architecture and Art 87 

Memories of Benny Bufano 89 

Evelyn and Bob, Meeting and Dating 90 

The Harley-Davidson 93 

Meeting the Families 94 

The "Clubby" Department of the Early 1930s 97 

[Interviewed by the Regional Oral History Office] 98 

A Member of the Order of the Golden Bear 98 

Attempting to Change the Architecture Department Curriculum 100 

Stiles Hall and Campus Politics 102 

European Tour and Architectural Influences 103 

Finding a Job--Mayhew and Masten and Hurd 107 

Telesis 112 

Alameda Naval Base- -Salvaging a Dredge 114 

Chicago, Naval Procurement: Seabees 117 

Life in Chicago for Evelyn and Bob 122 

Building the House on Panoramic Way in Berkeley, 1941 124 


Fernwald Hall and Some Troubling Conclusions 125 
A Healthy Savings Institution, and Fidelity's Home Loan 

Policy 131 

Scott Haymond, and Revamping the Office 133 

The Legacy of Church Architectural Work 134 

Residential Work, the Fourth Dimension and the Client 136 

Ratcliff & Ratcliff, 1953- -The Pacific School of Religion 140 

The Off ice- -Interviewing Draftsmen, 1950s 143 

Murray Slama and Burns Cadwalader 144 

Jules Kliot, and the Round Firehouse on The Alameda 145 

Reflections on Bringing in "New Guys" 148 

The Impetus to Suceed Financially 149 

Berkeley and UC Friends, and the Flow of Work- -Sororities 150 

Good Communication with Clients 153 

One Man's "Comfort"- -Interiors 155 


Berkeley Municipal League- -Cross for Mayor 157 

Council of Social Planning and the Problem Populations 159 

Environment Shaping Lives 162 

Citizen Involvement, Stiles Hall and the Community Y 164 

Lester Hink 165 

Permit Appeals Board and Building Codes 166 

Panoramic Hill Improvement Association, Road Committee 168 

City Commons Club, and Herb Zuckerman 172 

Business Lunches and Service Clubs 173 

Service- -Murray and Burns and AIA Involvement 174 

Berkeley Master Planning, and UC's Growth 175 

The Waterfront Committee, and a Proposal for a New Berkeley 177 

Aquatic Park and the Entrance to Berkeley 180 

Other Pro Bono Work for the City 182 

The Group, and !Men9.04 183 


Incorporation 187 

Working for Alameda County 188 

Contractors and Architects, and Murray's Contribution 192 

A Talent for Working with Staff and with Clients 

Highland Hospital 

Mistakes, Honorable Men, and Insurance 

Environmentally Conscious Practice vs. the Competitive World 

University of the Pacific- -Unfinished Business 

UC Berkeley, a Different Matter- -Remodelling 205 

UC Santa Cruz, and the Landscape Architects 206 

Strong Designers and Project Teams at The Ratcliff 

Architects 208 

Management, Principals, and Partners 
Architecture Offices and Fledgling Architects 

Publishing and Promoting the Firm's Work 213 

Tradition and The Ratcliff Architects 214 


INDEX 217 

ILLUSTRATIONS following pp. 20, 73, and 186. 

INTRODUCTION by Harold C. Norton 

My first recollection of Robert Ratcliff, although I may have met 
him earlier, is a visit to a crowded, busy and friendly office on Fulton 
Street in Berkeley. It was shared by others, but I do not remember whom, 
nor do I remember the purpose of my visit, as I was too impressed by the 
cordiality and warmth of the man I had come to see. That first 
impression has never changed. To me, Bob will always be a man of warmth, 
trust, and friendliness, and not the least, a man of infectious good 
humor . 

From that early encounter, our relationship grew. Earlier his 
father, Walter, and I had on several occasions become parties in property 
negotiations. I approached each meeting with trepidation, recognizing 
the experience and prestige of my adversary. We used many ploys and 
devices to gain advantage, which greatly amused Bob. We learned each 
other's strengths and techniques, and in the end, reached foregone 
results. From these sessions came an abiding respect and an affection 
for each other which served as a stepping stone to my lasting and 
steadfast friendship with Bob and with Evelyn, who is so dear and 
supportive. These feelings are shared by my entire family. 

We have been fortunate in our relationship, business and social, 
for we came to know all of the Ratcliff family. Many memories now 
surface, far too many to include. There were visits to the "ranch" in 
Mendocino with our families, the games we played around the roaring fire, 
the cold nights in the dormitory, the serenity of the forest where young 
Kit taught me how to fell a tree, the eagerness and vigor with which Bob 
pushed our car with his and climbed on the back of it to brand it 

Then there were the weddings, one where our Rory was part of the 
musical quartet, first on Roble Road in that beautiful home designed by 
Walter and so appropriate for an architectural family, and the 
festivities which followed where one of the young swains (fiance of Bob 
and Evelyn's daughter, Polly), in his eagerness to catch the coveted 
garter landed in the fountain. And there was the equally lovely wedding 
of our daughter at our home, for which Bob and Evelyn supplied all of the 
champagne and brought multitudes of plants to embellish the outdoor 
setting. Evelyn returned at 6:00 o'clock the next morning, saying that 


if we kept them longer, they would perish forever. A testament to our 
green thumbs . 

I must reveal that Bob tried to make me into an amateur architect 
and contractor. The need arose to reconstruct a portion of our home. 
Never having undertaken a task of that magnitude, 1 sought Bob's advise. 
He gave it without hesitation, led me through the labyrinthine problems 
and was as proud as I when the job, no small undertaking, was 
successfully completed, accomplished with only a hand saw, hammer, 
square, level and a simple screwdriver. 

I should also mention our exploration of the underground creeks of 
Berkeley (actually, there was only one, my memory makes one hyperbolize) 
with flashlights and other appropriate gear. We approached the 
enterprise with interest and sharp curiosity, and we were not 
disappointed. We believed that we had traversed half the distance to the 
bay, but in reality, it was only about two city blocks. We learned 
something about our city which is special, known only to the few; the 
experience we shared added to our bond of companionship. 

Robert Ratcliff is part of an architectural family that spans 
three generations. In addition, he is part of the great architectural 
heritage for which Berkeley is famous. He deserves inclusion in that 
heritage. But beyond his professional accomplishments, he must be 
recognized for his unstinting and outstanding labor to preserve and 
improve the beauty and graciousness of Berkeley. His efforts have been 
given expertly, freely, and without hesitation. His receipt of the 
Benjamin Ide Wheeler Award was fitting, a modest acknowledgement of his 
multitude of civic contributions. 

Finally, he is a man of integrity, dignity and understanding, 
devoted to his family and dedicated to his principles. To me, who has 
spent so many years with Bob and whose families have become so much a 
part of each other and who has shared so many goals and aspirations with 
him, he has been a constant challenge and inspiration in our search for a 
better life. I am proud to be included in this tribute to a deserving 
colleague and one whom I consider a kindred spirit and a cherished 

Oakland, California Harold C. Norton, Executive Director 

May 31, 1990 Alameda County Bar Association 



Today, 1990, the name Ratcliff Architects is well-known in Berkeley 
and the Bay Region. Seventy years ago, in 1920, it was every bit as well 
known. Ratcliff architects have been designing schools, hospitals, and 
residences since Walter H. Ratcliff, a graduate of the University of 
California whose architectural education took the form of travel, and 
study at the British School in Rome, and working with John Galen Howard, 
opened his office in 1909. From 1914 to 1920 Walter Ratcliff was 
Berkeley's City Architect, a time when the enlightened university town 
built four new public schools. In 1925 he designed the East Bay's first 
high rise, now the Wells Fargo Building, which rose above Berkeley's 
Shattuck Avenue in solitary splendor and remained the dominant office 
building on the downtown landscape for twenty-five years. 

Robert W. Ratcliff was the second Ratcliff to become an architect. 
He is a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley's School of 
Architecture. After graduation in 1936 he worked for other architects in 
the Bay Area, until the Depression put them effectively out of business. 
During World War II he served an enlightening apprenticeship at the 
supply end of the Seabee operation in Chicago. In 1945, at the war's 
close, he came back to Berkeley to join his father, and Scott Haymond, 
designing urgently-needed dormitories for the University of California. 
He and his wife Evelyn had, by then, three children, and the house they 
had built in 1941 on Panoramic Road in Berkeley was awaiting their 

The school dormitory work was an important beginning: throughout 
Robert Ratcliff 's architectural career the University continued to be his 
client. Berkeley campus renovation and restoration strengthened the 
reputation of the firm for fine institutional buildings- -Walter Ratcliff 
had done Mills College's general plan, and nine buildings on the campus, 
including the Music Building and the Art Gallery and studios; the May T. 
Morrison Library at UC Berkeley; the library and administration building 
at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley; and extensive work at the 
Church Divinity School of the Pacific. What Robert Ratcliff took on for 
the University didn't stop at Berkeley; Ratcliff architects did work for 
UC Santa Cruz, UC San Francisco, and in 1987 for both UC Irvine and UC 
San Diego. 


Robert Ratcliff practiced with his father until Walter Ratcliff's 
retirement in 1955. Schools, banks, churches, and city buildings loom 
large in their list of accomplishments. Residential commissions were 
notable both for their ownership a list of Berkeley's town and gown 
clientele- -and their comfortable design. In 1961 the firm was 
incorporated as Ratcliff, Slama and Cadwalader when associates Murray 
Slama and Burns Cadwalader were brought into partnership. They had their 
office on Grove Street (now Martin Luther King Jr. Way) on the Berkeley- 
Oakland border. The building was expanded across the border, giving them 
two city addresses, and that expansion came in part because they had a 
reputation, with associates Syed V. Husain and Don Kasamoto and Peter 
Gray Scott, for excellence in hospital work that brought in commissions 
from the far reaches of California. 

Robert W. Ratcliff is the subject of this oral history. His stamp 
is on the firm today. His guidance and his principles have brought the 
firm intact through the competitive decades of the fifties, sixties, and 
seventies. The town and gown connections of Robert Ratcliff, mentioned 
earlier, are in the nature and duty of being a citizen, as far as he is 
concerned. No matter what his work, he would be "involved" with his 
community. He and his wife Evelyn Paine Ratcliff are Berkeley-born and 
educated. They have never yearned to be anywhere else, and they have 
been in every way supportive of Berkeley as it was, and as it is, and as 
it might be. 

This involvement with Berkeley has always been active. Robert 
Ratcliff was treasurer of the Berkeley Municipal League, vice-chairman of 
the Berkeley Community Concert Association, a board member of the 
Berkeley YMCA and of the Berkeley YWCA advisory board, chairman of the 
Council of Social Planning, on the Herrick Hospital Mental Health 
Advisory Board, the Board of Permit Appeals, chairman of the Road 
Committee of the Panoramic Improvement Association, a member of the City 
Commons Club, and the Rotary Club. He lent his expertise to the city's 
Redevelopment Committee, and his support to Save the Bay, Teles is, Save- 
the-Redwoods, Gun Control, Nature Conservancy, etc., as well as musical 
groups . 

Robert Ratcliff's list of architectural pro bono work is in the 
same spirit: Berkeley Day Nursery, YWCA, YMCA, Stiles Hall, the City of 
Berkeley's sewer committee, master plan review, Havens fountain, BART 
reconstruction, permit appeals board, waterfront planning, Aquatic Park, 
Friends of the Library, and the redesigning of University and Shattuck 
Avenues. In the Introduction to the oral history Harold C. Norton has 
testified to the civic-minded side of Robert Ratcliff, as well as to the 
family-minded side, with telling anecdotes. 

The Ratcliff s believe in family. The Ratcliff Architects is a 
family firm. The office gave two housewarming parties at their newest, 
largest location, 5856 Doyle Street, Emeryville, April 1, 1990. One 

party was for all the architects and staff and their families. It was a 
picnic with good food, a performing pig and its trainer to entertain the 
children, balloons, a pianist, and generations of good will. The 
principals wore silver baseball jackets declaring them The Ratcliff 
Architects . 

Following the earlier lead of Walter and Muriel Ratcliff, Bob and 
Evelyn Ratcliff have made Mendocino County a second home. The Ratcliff 
children, Lucy Jay Ratcliff Pope, Mary Trueblood Ratcliff Walter, 
Christopher Paine Ratcliff, Alice Williams Ratcliff, Elizabeth Muriel 
Ratcliff Austin, and Thomas Trueblood Ratcliff are providing a new 
generation of family to go to Mendocino. The group of men friends 
(discussed in the oral history) banded together under the rubric 1MEN9.04 
meet up there too. 

This oral history with Robert Ratcliff is planned as the first of 
several volumes with the principals of The Ratcliff Architects- -the name 
the firm took in 1978. (Christopher Ratcliff, another graduate of the 
University of California's School of Architecture, is the third 
generation of Ratcliffs in the firm.) Our intention is to study from 
several points of view the phenomenon of such a successful three - 
generation architectural practice that grew from Walter Ratcliffs one- 
man office doing business on a handshake to a partnership protected by 
the complicated written agreements necessary today in a profession so 
vulnerable to litigation. Environmental concerns were a focus when 
Walter Ratcliff, and Robert after him, argued for creeks and open space, 
but now it takes the form of extremely complex and time-consuming 
Environmental Impact Studies. 

I first met Robert and Evelyn Ratcliff in 1974 when I interviewed 
them about Walter Steilberg for Volume One of the Julia Morgan 
Architectural History Project (Regional Oral History Office, 1976). Our 
more recent round of meetings began in November 1988 when I went to the 
Ratcliffs house at 74 Panoramic Road to discuss the proposed Ratcliff 
Architects Oral History Project. When Bob agreed to the interviews he 
outlined his feelings about how the business had changed. He felt it was 
valuable to discuss those changes. He also set to work to make notes on 
the highlights of his life and work, and of his father's life and work. 

The interviews began in April 1989 and we taped in April, May, and 
June. Excerpts from transcripts of some five hours of video-taped family 
history conversations Christopher Ratcliff has done with his parents are 
edited into the interviews, where indicated. Bob Ratcliff edited the 
oral history extensively. He had been well-prepared for the interviews, 
but he was often surprised at the turn a question would take. He was 
concerned that he had put his thoughts together in an unclear manner, so 
he eliminated much that he deemed rambling. When the editing was over he 
gathered for us a great group of photographs to use as illustrations. 


The photographs, introducing as they do the other partners and the 
sense of the team, bring up again our intention of doing a further volume 
of interviews with The Ratcliff Architects. For now we are very pleased 
to present the first look at the success story of The Ratcliff 
Architects. In Berkeley Since 1909. 

Thanks to Robert and Evelyn Ratcliff and to the firm of The 
Ratcliff Architects for being enthusiastic about this project, to Harold 
Norton for joining in so eloquently with his Introduction, and to J. R. 
K. Kantor for the knowledgeable proofreading that only a Panoramic Road 
resident and ex-University Archivist could have done. 

The Regional Oral History Office was established to tape record 
autobiographical interviews with persons who have contributed 
significantly to recent California history. The office is headed by 
Willa K. Baum and is under the administrative supervision of James D. 
Hart, the director of The Bancroft Library. 

Berkeley, California Suzanne B. Riess, Senior Editor 

June 20, 1990 Regional Oral History Office 


Regional Oral History Office University of California 

Room 486 The Bancroft Library Berkeley, California 94720 

(Please write clearly. Use black ink.) 

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Regional Oral History Office 
Room 486 The Bancroft Library 

University of California 
Berkeley, California 94720 


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[Interview 1: April 12, 1989 ]//# 

Daily Life in Berkeley 

Please describe your parents to me? First, your father. 

Robert Ratcliff: Well, he was a hundred and sixty- five pounds. I don't 

think he changed his weight at all. He was in very good 
physical condition all his life, and he never suffered 
from arthritis or any problems of that sort, whatever. 
He was always quite active. When he was young, he was a 
very good tennis player. He and May Sutton were the 
mixed doubles champions of the Pacific Coast. They 
played against Little Bill Johnson, who was then the 
world's champion, with another lady- -mixed double 
championship. He was interested in showing us how, so 
we used to go down on Sunday morning and play tennis at 
the Berkeley Tennis Club. We started at a fairly young 
age and had really a wonderful time. I always looked 
forward to that, those were really great mornings. 

Helen Wills moved in next door to us at the time 
when she was the world's champion, so that was further 
incentive, and, on top of that, she gave me a tennis 
racket. Old Dr. Wills gave us all her old balls, which 
had only been used for one set, probably. They were 
very good balls, so we never bought any tennis balls. 

////This symbol indicates that a tape or a segment of a 
tape has begun or ended. For a guide to the tapes see 
page 216. 


Robert Ratcliff : 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 

It was really kind of a nice beginning. 

We also took long walks every Sunday. 
Where would you walk? 

Well, we walked up the Sacramento Short Line tracks up 
to Montclair, and then we'd walk up to the top of 
Grizzly Peak and along the road which they were then 
building. The Grizzly Peak road was built by the WPA, 
Works Progress Administration, trying to stimulate some 
activity during the thirties. It was a pick- and- shovel 
job. There were about a hundred people digging that 
road up there. Then we'd walk back down to Roble Road. 
It took us two and a half hours, maybe, three hours. It 
was a long walk. We went pretty quickly, about three or 
four miles per hour. It was an exercise. 

And was Pete on those walks? 

Was Pete? 
the team. 

Sure. My mother, Pete, and I were usually 

The whole family? 

Well, no, there were two daughters, too. One of them, 
my sister Muriel, also went on the walks occasionally, 
but she wasn't as regular as the rest of us were. My 
mother also didn't feel that my sisters were up to it, 
somehow. She didn't equate boys and girls. She thought 
boys were stronger, better, and more active. 

My parents were sort of project-oriented people. 
My mother was physically very strong and very much 
involved in family business. She didn't go to college. 
As a matter of fact, she got married when she was twenty 
years old, in 1912. She was interested in all sorts of 
activities, and she was very interested in the family 
and very supportive of everything that we attempted to 
do. We always had projects, and she was always there. 

I used to claim we were one of the first two-car 
families in Berkeley. She drove her wagon, this four- 
wheeled cart, pulled by a pony, Tommy, a Hungarian pony. 
My father had a Model T Ford. So we used to go shopping 

This paragraph and others marked [C.R.] incorporate conversations 
videotaped with his parents by Christopher Ratcliff in December 1985. 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 

in it. She drove us to school. We used to go on trips 
on the weekends in this great thing. We went out to 
Alameda to Cottage Baths. There used to be several of 
these sorts of recreation parks along the south coast of 

How did you get across to Alameda? 

It was about an hour's trip over. We went across on a 
bridge. There used to be a bridge that went across 
where the tube is now. We'd go there with our pony cart 
and with our friends, all the way from Berkeley. It was 
really fun. We would take our lunch along and have 
lunch at this place and swim. It had a swimming pool, 
and we also could swim in the bay. The bay was kind of 
muddy, but it was warm. It was very nice. There was a 
beach there . Alameda was a fine place in the early 
days, a very comfortable place to live. 

If you hadn't been driven to school, how would you get 
to school? Was it a long walk? 

Oh, we walked. We went to John Muir, so it was half a 
mile away, and then we went to Willard. We skated most 
of the time. We used to have roller skates, and roller- 
skating was a big deal in those days. 

What would be a typical day in your family, when you 
were younger? 

[C.R.] Well, I guess I'd probably take a day when I was 
at Willard School, when I was probably oh, old enough to 
remember. My father would go to work. He had a Buick 
automobile at that time. I would skate to school. We 
were a couple of miles from school, and we used to 
roller-skate a great deal. That was another thing that 
my mother was great on. She liked roller-skating. We 
used to go down to Idora Park in Oakland and roller- 
skate quite a bit. We got to be fairly good on roller 
skates, so roller-skating to school was a very easy roll 
right down the middle of Tunnel Road. There were very 
few cars . 

We got to school, Willard School. My brother Pete 
was at John Muir. But then the next year, Pete and I 
would both skate down to Willard. We'd have lunch 
there, play handball usually during the lunch hour. 


Evelyn Ratcliff : 

Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 

We had some great teachers: Bessie Maine, and 
Minnie Maine, and-- 

And then Miss Smirl, who was still teaching when our 
children went to Willard. 

Smirl, yeah, who later became Mrs. Ivelsky, taught us 
Spanish. Miss Christie, who taught English. She was a 
wild woman. She called the boys, "man." She'd say, 
"Man, stand up!" and "What did you say, man?!" It was 
really an interesting time. We had a very good manual 
training course, and we had a very good science teacher. 
I remember those classes very well. We usually came 
home in the afternoon, and there were a lot of young 
people in the neighborhood who would get together and 
have a baseball game or something of that kind. 

You didn't come home and do homework? 

I was not a terribly good student. I wasn't exactly 
browbeaten by my parents to be a great student. 1 did 
some homework, yes, I remember that was painful. 

You did homework at night, not in the afternoon? 

That's right, at night, not in the afternoon. Actually, 
that was probably one of the priorities that was screwed 
up, but in the afternoons we mostly enjoyed ourselves, 
either riding horses, which we had- -there were two of 
them at that time- -or playing baseball, or doing 
something of that kind. On the weekends, my mother 
always had something planned. She was just a marvelous 
entertainer, [end C.R.] 

55 Roble Road 


Robert Ratcliff: 

You said that you lived between two farms. 

Yes, we did. We lived between Heimbolt and McDuffie, 
and McDuffie had an Italian gardener named George 
Celestra who actually came from Sicily. We got milk 
from Heimbolt in the morning and Celestra in the 
afternoon. We used to have problems because the milk 
always came in glass bottles in those days, and we'd get 
confused and give Celestra Heimbolt 's bottles. Then 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 

there would be a big war. We'd have to get together and 
straighten out the bottle situation. 

A matter of great diplomacy, yes. 

That took a certain amount of diplomacy, [laughter] 

Now that must have been open land then, and it's since 
become very treed over, hasn't it? 

It was pretty open, yes. Our property ran from Tunnel 
Road down to Roble Road. We were at 55, which was at 
the end of the developed part of Roble Road. The road 
has now been developed further into Oakland, but that 
was actually the Oakland line. There were no houses 
between us and the corner where Tunnel and Roble met. 
The Nickerson house my father designed about a year 
after he designed our house. Our house was built in 

McDuffie owned the property on the west side of 
Roble Road. It was open then, and then they developed 
Roble Court, a city street, so I guess the city probably 
developed it. I'm sure McDuffie was involved because 
he, I think, was in charge of the development of 
Claremont, originally. He and Mason of Mason-McDuffie. 
The story went that as part of his fee he took all the 
land between The Uplands and Roble Road and the Oakland 
line and Tunnel Road. It's a trapezoid of land, I don't 
know how many acres, but I would assume it's maybe 
twenty -five acres of land, maybe more than that. 

McDuffie's house was on Tunnel Road between Roble 
and The Uplands. He sold the corner of The Uplands to 
Henry Swift, who was married to my mother's older 
sister. They built a house in there in the orchard. 

Did your father invest in land? 

Not in Berkeley. 

Did he rue that fact later? 

I don't think he everwell, that's not quite true. He 
invested in some stores out on Solano Avenue. He bought 

some property and designed about five stores, about half 
a block long. 


Where on Solano? 

Robert Ratcliff: 

I have to go and look it up myself. It's on the north 
side of the street, not as far down as Key Route 
Boulevard. I'll have to get a map and look it up. It's 
in the middle of Solano Avenue, approximately. Anyway, 
he had bought and designed that, and held that, and as a 
matter of fact, it was in his will after he died. And 
he bought a building which became a co-op rooming house 
on Ridge Road. 

I can't think of any other property in Berkeley 
that he owned. He wasn't very big on buying real estate 
and owning a lot of real estate. The major real estate 
he bought was at a place up in Mendocino County. He 
bought four hundred acres up there and expanded it to 
about a thousand acres later. 

Summers and Sierra Trips 


Robert Ratcliff: 


You went in summer to Inverness in Marin County? 

Before my parents owned a country place, we used to 
explore around. We went to Inverness a number of times. 
Hy mother had gone there when she was a child, and she 
knew a lot of the people there. It was very 
comfortable, very easy to get to. We went to Clear Lake 
a couple of times. When I was very young, we went up to 
a little camp, which Maybeck designed, maybe half a mile 
beyond the end of Fallen Leaf Lake . 

You would pack yourselves in to it? 

Robert Ratcliff: Yes, you had to pack your way in, and even today there 

are only trails. You have to walk in. 

From there we went up into Desolation Valley and 
camped in Desolation Valley. We have photographs of my 
brother, Pete, and me on a donkey, going up this trail, 
and other photographs of our camp. It probably wasn't a 
very long trip, but it was one of our first 
mountaineering experiences, and I still feel as though I 
can remember it, although I'm not really clear- -perhaps 
remembering what I've been told. I've seen the 
photographs, so I know what it looked like. 

[C.R.] Another thing which happened at that time, 
or along in the twenties, was trips to the Sierras. We 

knew the Hildebrand family, Alex and Louise and Milton 
and Roger. They took trips into the mountains with 
donkeys every year, and they invited us, Pete and me, to 
go with them and Dana Raymond and John Adams, and 
occasionally other people. 

We took these wonderful trips into the Sierra, to 
the Kings River and to the Kern River, and to the Mount 
Whitney area, and the upper regions of the San Joaquin 
River, some of the best parts of the Sierra. Those were 
just wonderful trips. We had an enormously good time 
doing that. 

Later, during college, I went on two winter 
mountaineering trips. The first was an attempt to climb 
Mount Lyell in the wintertime, between Christmas and New 
Year's, with four Sierra Club fellows: Bestor Robinson, 
Louis Clark, Einer Nilsson and Oliver Kirlein. We never 
actually made it, but we had a wonderful time. Storms 
came up, and we were just not brave enough to risk our 
lives against the storm, so we turned back. 

I was a junior in college when eight of us 
attempted to climb Mount Waddington, which is in British 
Columbia. The south peak had never been climbed, and we 
actually didn't climb it either. Bestor Robinson led 
that trip. We rented two airplanes to fly us north, to 
the end of Knight Inlet, where the Franklin River comes 
in, and then spent two weeks attempting to climb the 
mountain. We never made it. But it was a very exciting 

Building a Canoe 

Robert Ratcliff : We had a shop at Roble Road, which was a wonderful place 

to make things. We got excited about making a canoe one 
time. Pop said, "Well, you can't do it unless you first 
make a drawing." So we got a roll of wallpaper, I think 
it was, about three feet wide. We decided the canoe 
should be eighteen feet long. So we rolled it out in 
the living room and made this full-sized drawing of a 
canoe. Pop came home, looked at it, and said, "Well, 
don't you think that's a little bit long?" [laughter] 
So he folded it over and cut ten feet out of the middle. 
We had an eight-foot canoe. 

It was to be made of barrel staves and a cedar 
frame put together with brass screws. We got the idea 
from a popular science magazine. It was a pretty good 
little design. I'm sure we couldn't have come up with 
anything quite that good at that age. In any case, Pete 
and I made this thing out of barrel staves. We steamed 
them, and bent them to the right shape, and then screwed 
them all together. That little canoe has held together 
very well. Here it is, 1989, and it's still going. I 
think we built it probably in 1923 or 1924. Probably 
1923. That makes it sixty-six years old and still going 
pretty well. 

After we finished, we took it up to Inverness. 
We'd paddle it down from Brock Schreiber's Wharf, down 
to Shell Beach and back. My would run along the coast, 
looking out to see if she could see us . I remember one 
day it was rough, and she was pretty excited, because 
half the time we were out of sight between the waves. 
We had a great time with it. That was one of the 
greater things we built, [end C.R.] 

Mother's Family, the Williams Side 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 

Your mother was an outdoorsy person? 
bit about her family. 

Tell me a little 

Well, her mother's family name was Caduc. 
family came from France . 

Her mother's 

How did they come to California? Do you know? 

I don't know how the Caducs got here. She married Harry 
Williams, who was Welsh. His father came over in a 
boat, and he arrived in San Francisco in 1848. They 
settled in San Francisco. He didn't go to the Gold 
Rush. He did other things. I don't know exactly how 
vigorous a man he was. At first, I thought he was a sea 
captain, and then later we discovered that he wasn't. 
He was probably the second mate . 

In about 1925, when a building was being built over 
in San Francisco, they dug down and discovered the 

*Mrs. Walter Ratcliff 's children called her "My." 

remains of an old boat, and it turned out to be the boat 
his father had come over on. [C.R.] I remember in about 
1924 when he invited us to go with him on a trip out to 
the pilot boat. His father having been a sailor, 
Grandpa Williams fancied himself as quite a sailor, and 
because his father-in-law was the first president of the 
Corinthian Yacht Club, and first head of the Bar Pilot 
Association, Grandpa knew a lot of pilots and a lot of 
captains . He also was introduced to other people who 
were shipowners. This year, he was going around world 
on an Isthmian boat called the Steel Exporter. He was 
given the captain's cabin, and he invited us to go with 
him on this boat out to the pilot boatx and with a pilot 
friend of his get off and stay overnight and come back. 
It was a very exciting experience. 

Grandpa Williams was staying at Cloyne Court with 
his mother, our great -grandmother, whom we called "Best 
Grandma" . On Sundays he used to walk over and have 
lunch with us, at Roble Road. He introduced us to his 
favorite dish, which was baked potato smothered with 
onions. He thought that was the greatest, [end C.R.] 

Our great -grandmother came to California on a 
covered wagon on the southern route , to S*> Diego and 
then to San Francisco. Her name was Teret-a Gillis. She 
came from South Carolina. She married Harry Williams 
who was quite a bit older than she was, and they lived 
in San Francisco and built a four- story house, with a 
cupola on top, on the corner of Sacramento and Octavia. 
It was right across from the little park on top of the 
hill. It escaped the fire and became a relief center 
during the 1906 fire and earthquake, because of its 
location and because there were two great big water 
tanks in the top floor. The park was filled with 
homeless people. There was water for drinking and 
cooking and a house right there. It became a center for 
people who were burned out. My mother experienced all 
of this and had many stories to tell. She was born in 
1892, so she was then in 1906 fourteen years old. She 
really had a very clear memory of the time. 

Now back to Cora Caduc, my grandmother. She was 
sort of an au pair for Mrs. Moss. Mr. and Mrs. Moss 
owned what is now called Mosswood Park, in Oakland. She 
worked and helped Mrs. Moss, before she married Harry 
Williams. Mr. Moss got sick. Actually, I think he had 
cancer, so they decided he should go back to Paris to 
get medical help with the idea that he would return very 
quickly. But he didn't come back. Then Mrs. Moss 


Riess : 

Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 

decided she had better go over to see how he was getting 
along. By this time my grandparents had gotten married. 

People went to Paris for medical care? 

Well, they did, because I think that was where they had 
come from, originally. So France was the place they 
thought would be the best. 

They offered this place to my grandparents to rent , 
to maintain while they were gone. It was a very low 
rent, with the provision that they would keep the 
upstairs maid and the downstairs maid and the gardener 
and the coachman and all this staff intact, so that the 
team would not get lost. So my mother grew up in 
Mosswood Park, in the old Moss house, with all these 
amenities, and went to Anna Head School shortly after it 
began. She had three sisters and a brother, and the 
three sisters all went to Anna Head School of Berkeley. 

She was instantly elevated into landed gentry. 

In a way, yes. But they had a lot of money, because my 
great-grandfather Williams made a lot of money during 
the Gold Rush period. Jim Gillis, his wife's brother, 
was a partner of Mark Twain up at Jackass Hill, in 
Tuolumne County. 

A partner in what? 

Well, in a company which transported goods to the 
miners. They had this pack train that took stuff up to 
Jackass Hill near Sonora. First of all, Williams got 
started doing this with a fellow in Chico, and then-- 
well , I'll have to brush up on my memory on this , on the 
background, because I haven't prepared to do that. 

We could add it as a note . 

I should leap to the next 

The Gillis family is prominent in the east and in South 
Carolina. This led to a very interesting connection. 
My mother used to think that Mark Twain was a dirty old 
man. He came in with all of his chewing tobacco and 
cigars, and smoke and, I guess, spat and missed the 
spittoons, which probably were not too well-placed. 
When Jim Gillis and Mark Twain came to the house, or 
Uncle Jim, as she called him, there were just a stream 
of stories. These people were storytellers, and they 


invented and exaggerated these stories to the point 
where they became very interesting and a lot of fun, 
she remembers all of that as part of her background. 



Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 

They grew up in Mosswood Park, and then they later 
moved to Berkeley. Her background was always filled 
with a lot of horses and dogs and animals, and that sort 
of thing. She came with a great feeling for that, for 
having animals in the house, which has carried over. As 
a matter of fact, it carried over to our generation, I 
guess. We had almost as many animals as she had, in 
this house, with our children. 

She went to the University? 

She didn't go to the University. She graduated from the 
Head School, and then she got married to my father. 

I see. Where did he meet her? 
Well, he was a Berkeley guy. 
He had graduated. 

Oh, yes, and he was quite a bit older, because he 
graduated in 1903, and he was born in '81, so he was 
eleven years older than she. She was at Anna Head 
School when he met her. He had already graduated from 
the University. 

That's not part of the family lore, the first meeting? 

No, but part of the family lore is that they went back 
and forth to Bolinas in those days for overnight and 
weekend trips. They went on boats from San Francisco to 
Bolinas, and the Jenny Griffin was the boat on which my 
father proposed to my mother, on the way to Bolinas. 

There were two boats that went back and forth to 
Bolinas, and they took all the food back and forth. It 
was too hard to go over these mountains. It was so easy 
by boat. You just had to get around the potato patch 
[shoals] and you were there. There were two boats, the 
Owl and the Jenny Griffin , that used to make regular 
trips back and forth to Bolinas. 

They knew everybody in Bolinas as well. Two of my 
mother's sisters and their families lived in Marin 
County. They owned almost half the Little Mesa at one 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Evelyn Ratcliff: 

Riess : 

Robert Ratcliff: 



time, in Bolinas. They were early settlers over there. 
They didn't live there, but they went there for 
vacations . 

Scott Newhall describes people in Bolinas having 
automobiles when they were fourteen and dashing around, 
and having boats and endless house parties, people 
coming for a day and staying for a week, or for a week 
and staying for a year. 

He moved in that crowd, I guess. Well, the crowd my 
mother moved in was a pretty well-heeled crowd, a lot of 
them from San Francisco and Mar in County. My mother's 
sister, Corona, married Berrien Anderson, whose father 
was the president of the Bank of California, who was a 
very wealthy guy. I don't know exactly how many people 
there were between him and Ralston, but not probably too 
many, because he was pretty far back. 

Corona is a surprising name, isn't it? 

Her name is Beatrice Corona, actually. We always called 
her Corona, but her first name is Beatrice. 

And your mother's name was Muriel? 

Muriel Cora Williams. She never liked that, either. 

Any relation at all to the Cora Williams of the Williams 
School in north Berkeley? 

Robert Ratcliff: No, no relation at all. 

Father's Enelishness. the Ratcliff Side 


Robert Ratcliff: 

You've said that your father was in every way an 
Englishman. What do you mean by that? 

Well, my father was a very moral man. He felt that 
honesty and morality were really a basis for the way 
human beings should behave and conduct their lives. It 
was really his religion, I think. His father, an 
Episcopal minister, was a very religious man, and so was 
his mother. I don't know whether maybe he got too much 
of that when he was young or what, but he rarely went to 
church. Oh, he knew the Bible and all this, because he 



Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 

had gone through the traces , but he came out of that 
thinking that the essence of this was being moral and 
being honest. 

Coming from England and seeing the English empire 
which, he felt, had done wonderful things in developing 
the world, he felt that the best in the English 
tradition personified this point of view toward things. 

A colonialist? 

Yes, and he was convinced that England could do no 
wrong. Somehow or other, he felt thetfe was always a 
good purpose behind everything they did and if there was 
something wrong, it was a mistake, that it wasn't 
intentional. He was very defensive of anything that 
happened in the world, any world affair in which the 
United States was involved, or any other country was 
involved, where there was a difference of opinion 
between the English and others. The English people were 
probably right. He really sort of went out of his way 
to underline this every time an issue came along. This 
is my reaction. He probably would argue that this 
wasn't right, but that's the way it always seemed to me. 

He didn't like Churchill. He thought Churchill was 
just a kind of a rough customer, a bull -in- the -china 
shop sort of a guy. He really didn't like him very 
much, but almost everybody else, he thought, was just 
superior. He thought that we didn't understand 
statesmanship over here. We did "politics," and the 
politics usually had a selfish motive, and whatever, and 
didn't live up to the kinds of standards he felt the 
English people had established and discovered were the 
right way of life. 

How did he communicate that to you? 
or by example? 

Was that directly 

Pretty direct. That was where he felt the lessons of 
life sort of had to focus, on the set of morals and 
principles . 

So they would be spelled out. 
example . 

They wouldn't be just by 

Well, I don't know. I guess you learn more by example 
than you do by anything else. He was a good example. 
My mother was, too. They were really straight, and I 

think that makes ari enormous difference. I think that's 
one of the biggest problems in this country. You don't 
have enough of that. It's unfortunate. 

Evelyn Ratcliff : 

Robert Ratcliff: 

Evelyn Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 

Riess : 

Bob's great -grandmother, Teresa Gillis, who married 
Harry Williams, the seaman from Wales, was a sister of 
Jim Gillis. There were several Gillis brothers, I think 
four or something, but Jim Gillis was the great friend 
of Mark Twain's, and that's how Mark Twain used to be at 
their house so much, because of his relation with Mrs. 
Ratcliff 's uncle, Jim. 


Jim Gillis actually was a doctor by training. I don't 
think he ever really practiced very much out here. I 
don't know what he did. 

There's a monument at Jackass Hill near Sonora. Have 
you seen that? The Mark Twain cottage has been rebuilt, 
and the monument was put up by the Native Daughters and 
Native Sons, whatever. It tells about Jim Gillis and 
Mark Twain, and these mule trains that they used to 
bring in supplies to the miners. I don't know to what 
extent Mark Twain was actually involved in the business, 
but the Gillis brothers were, definitely. 

Did this create any kind of conflict between them? Your 
mother sounds so well -rooted in California, and your 
father so well -rooted in England. 

I don't think my mother and father ever had a problem. 
They were about the best-coordinated and related people 
you can possibly imagine. They really loved each other. 
They never had a serious argument that I heard of, my 
whole life. 

My mother's father, however, didn't like the 
English. As a matter of fact, he was critical of the 
English. My grandfather thought Churchill was the 
greatest man that ever lived, whereas my father thought 
he did things in a very arbitrary way. They disagreed 
on political things, and my grandfather couldn't get 
along with my father when it came to a political matter, 
because he just didn't agree that England was all that 
good. He was very critical. That was funny. 

Did your father hang on to a bit of an English accent? 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 

I never noticed it, although I guess he may have had a 
slight English accent. His sister, who went back and 
married his cousin, came back with a much more positive, 
sort of English accent. But there's a part of England 
where the English accent is not that strong, you know. 
He grew up in London. I guess the answer to that is 
that I don't think he really had an accent by the time I 
knew him. 

Picturing the qualities that you're describing, and 
thinking about how a potential customer would react, the 
patina of Englishness sounds perfect. 

Yes, I think of it as a sense of dignity and refinement 
that people felt about him. He was not trained in 
public speaking, and he was always very nervous when he 
was asked to give a talk, unless it was extemporaneous. 
When it was on a subject for which he had a strong 
feeling, then he had no trouble whatever talking, 

Forsaking the Academic for the Out-of-doors 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 


You said that he was not academically inclined. 

I said that because I don't think he ever really did any 
academic research. At least none that I was aware of. 

Are you saying he was not an intellectual? 

I would say that he was an intellectual but not a 
scholar. Let's put it that way. Academic research was 
not something that interested him. Also, in my family 
generally there wasn't really much emphasis placed on 
academic activities, as there was in Evelyn's family, 
for example. Her mother was a teacher, and she grew up 
with a circle of people who were really focused on 
intellectual things. My father knew a great many 
professors and University people, but I don't think 
personally he ever did things that would fit the model 
of a professor, for example. 

As you describe your upbringing you describe precisely 
what makes it hard to live to the hilt as a Californian 
and be an intellectual. I mean, if you're going to be 
skiing when it's skiing season, and swimming when it's 


Robert Ratcliff : 

swimming time, and playing tennis when it's tennis time, 
then can you remember times when you just sat in your 
room and read a book? Or would your mother have said, 
"What are you doing in there?" 

She probably would have been surprised because it 
happened rarely. She was a very good reader, and she 
enjoyed reading out loud, which she did often. 

Skiing, for Example 

Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Evelyn Ratcliff: 
Robert Ratcliff: 

Skiing, for example. They were about the first people 
in California that had ever even been skiing. We used 
to go skiing up in the mountains. We'd go down and get 
on the train at Berkeley Station and go up to the Cisco 
Hotel. We'd get on the train at about seven or eight 
o'clock at night and get off at about four in the 
morning, in the snow sheds, and stay in this hotel, 
which was run by a lady named Freeman. 

We'd borrow skis from the PG&E linemen. They were 
about twelve feet long and about four inches wide. They 
had a strap that you tied onto your foot, and you'd go 
out with one pole, which was about ten feet long. It 
was a great big pole with a blob of wood at the end. 
The idea was, you'd take off your skis and walk up to 
the top of the hill, put your skis on, put the pole 
between your legs so you wouldn't go too fast, and ski 
down. I mean, it was the beginning. 

And they were considered to be cross-country skis? 
That's all they had. Yes, they were cross-country skis. 

But you couldn't turn, and you probably couldn't do a 

You could do telemark turns . 

As a matter of fact, that's the only turn you can really 
do with such long skis that didn't have pretty tight 
bindings, but in the beginning we didn't see any people 
who were doing any turns. Later on we bumped into some 
people who, I guess, must have come from Norway who 
could do telemarks. Nobody knew anything about 


Evelyn Ratcliff : 

christianias. I didn't even hear the word until a long 
time after we had started. 

Joel and Emily Hildebrand and their family and ours 
did a great many things together. As a matter of fact, 
my parents told Joel he ought to try skiing sometime, 
and we took them on a skiing trip, which was the first 
time ever we'd been together in the snow. Joel took a 
sabbatical year in Europe. They all went over and took 
skiing lessons from Hans Schneider, and came back and 
showed us how to do it! 

[C.R.] Uncle Henry Swift skied, and he turned out 
to be really a pretty good skier. He was actually a 
very well-coordinated fellow, and he did well. He also 
had a moving picture camera, and he took a lot of 
photographs. We have one of his movies which was taken 
when we were staying at the Summit Hotel. 

We were at the Summit Hotel in 1925 when Charlie 
Chaplin was there making pictures for the "Gold Rush" 
movie , over at the Sugar Bowl . 

He made a movie called "The Gold Rush," which was a 
classic . 

Robert Ratcliff: 


Evelyn Ratcliff: 

Chaplin and his entourage were staying at the same 
hotel. We also saw the rest of his cast. There was a 
fellow named Scotty Allen, who ran a dog team. A very 
sad thing happened. The leader of the dog team, the 
head dog, died the weekend we were there. It really was 
a terrible scene. Everybody was really broken up. But 
the picture-taking was really fun to watch, [end C.R.] 

In any case, when we had spare time it wasn't put 
into reading and research. It was put into activities 
and hobbies, and things of that kind. Those were the 
things that were stressed. We always had projects. I 
mean, I had a museum when I was young, and I built a 
house to put it in. [see p. 64] 

While we're on this, Evelyn, do you have a response to 
what I was saying, about what you did on a rainy day? 

Oh, yes. I would say that Mr. Ratcliff was an English 
gentleman whose parents were very academic. He sort of 
rebelled, a little, felt that they didn't take careful 
note of the practical world. I don't think his father 
ever used a tool in his life, probably. Bob's father 


Robert Ratcliff: 
Evelyn Ratcliff: 


Evelyn Ratcliff: 


Evelyn Ratcliff: 

felt that was important, so he wanted to bring his 
children up using tools and doing that sort of thing. 
Also, he felt that you could be so full of book 
knowledge that you wouldn't really apply it very well to 
your life. I suppose a parallel would be architects who 
might teach but didn't design houses --this would be 
something he'd be critical of, that they'd be teachers 
but not doers. He was definitely a doer, rather than a 
theoretical person. 

He was really very hands-on. 

If you met him, you would think he was just a wonderful 
English gentleman. A very handsome, handsome man-- 
straight, tall, attractive. 

What would be your impressions of her? 

She was very pretty and very interested in the children, 
the animals, the garden. He was interested in the 
garden. He liked to garden. They both did a lot of 

Just a little tangent- -in your own upbringing, Evelyn, 
how was it on a rainy day for you? Were you encouraged 
to sit with a book? 

Well, I liked to sit with a book. I didn't have the 
opportunities that Bob did, to do some of the other 
things . 

The Berkeley Fire 

Robert Ratcliff: 

[C.R.] In 1923 the Berkeley fire occurred, and it 
burned a great section of north Berkeley. At that time, 
my Ratcliff grandparents were living on the corner of 
Virginia Street and Euclid- -the northeast section of 
that corner- -in a redwood shingle house which was burned 
absolutely to the ground. We went over the day after 
the fire and there was nothing whatever left. 

Just as the fire came, the college boys came to the 
site and told my grandparents that they were about to be 
burned out. They asked them if they wanted to save 
anything. They said, yes, they'd like to save the grand 
piano and the silverware. Grandma Ratcliff told them 


Evelyn Ratcliff: 

Robert Ratcliff: 

the silverware was in the kitchen, forgetting that all 
her good silverware was in a suitcase under her bed 
upstairs --typical English tradition. 

They came to live with us after that for about a 
year and a half, which was nice in many ways. We got to 
know them very well. It was difficult, however, for my 
mother, who had ideas about how we should be brought up. 
Grandma Ratcliff also had ideas about how we should be 
brought up and they weren't exactly the same, so there 
was a little conflict at times. Grandpa Ratcliff, who 
was very deaf, couldn't stand noise, so that was another 
little problem. Overall it was a good experience for 
all of us, a time when we all got to know each other 

I think you should really make it clear that the good 
silver was lost in the fire. 

Oh, yes, the good silver was under the bed. I should 
have said that the day after the fire we went back 
looking for it, because we knew exactly where the 
bedroom was on the property. We thought there would be 
a little wad of silver lying on the ground, and we dug 
around, but I guess it had burned up. [end C.R.] 

Siblings. Brother Peter Ratcliff 


Robert Ratcliff; 


Robert Ratcliff: 

You had two sisters? Perhaps you should tell me how you 
come in the whole sibling arrangement. 

Well, I was the oldest one. Pete was the number two. 
Then I had a sister named Margaret, one named Muriel, 
and a brother named Walter. Pete and I were about a 
year and a half apart. Margaret was about another year 
and a half behind Pete. I think Muriel is probably 
about another year and a half behind Margaret. Walt is 
thirteen years younger than I am. 

Did any of the others take up architecture? 
No , none of the others . 

I can remember when graduating from high school my 
father and mother didn't encourage Pete, for example, to 


go on to college. They said they weren't really sure 
that it was necessary. 

Riess: In the circle in which they've traveled, that seems 

extraordinary . 

Robert Ratcliff: Yes, that seems stranger to me now than it did then. 

For me, I thought it was important to do. But Pete 
wasn't a particularly good student. He was attractive 
socially, a very active sort of fellow, and very capable 
at things he put his mind to. He had a fancy automobile 
that he enjoyed a lot. So, instead of going on to 
college, my father gave him a job in the Fidelity 
Savings and Loan Association. 

By this time, 1931, the Depression had started. 
Louis McFarland was the president of Fidelity Savings 
and Loan Association, and my father was vice-president. 
When the Depression came, and the bottom just about 
dropped out, the doors almost closed. That's a whole 
separate story. We spent a lot of time going around 
repairing the apartment houses which they owned. There 
was a lot of work to do, to keep them going. 

Pete started doing that and stayed on with the 
Fidelity. He didn't come back and go to college. He 
finally became president of the Savings and Loan 
Association a few years later, but I think he's always 
felt a little unhappy that he hadn't somehow been 
encouraged to go to college. Most of his friends did go 
on to college. 

















Right: 55 Roble Road, 
Berkeley, 1916 
((Walter H. Ratcliff) 

Below: "Lone Rock," 
Mendocino, 1950 
(Robert W. Ratcliff ) 

Right: 93 Panoramic Road, 
Berkeley, 1942 (Robert W. 
Ratcliff ) 

Following page: 

Above: Walter Harris Ratcliff, Jr. and 

Muriel Cora Williams Ratcliff, from 
a painting by Dean Freeman, 1957. 

Below: Robert William Ratcliff and Evelyn 
Trueblood Paine Ratcliff, from 
photographs by Crodd Chin, 1985. 







O Cn 

c o 









Evelyn Paine Ratcliff, 1987 



Chemistry Malor. University of California 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 

It's interesting, of course, what Evelyn says about your 
father trying to correct some of what he felt were his 
father's misdirections. 

Well, his father really was very well-educated. He 
spoke, I think, both Greek and Latin. He gave services 
in Latin, and he spent his entire time reading. I think 
my father didn't think that was a good idea. I don't 
know that they had a screwdriver or a hammer in their 
house, when he was growing up. When he built his house 
he built himself a workshop, a great big workshop. We 
had a lathe . We had everything in that workshop . 

Can you remember your father ever saying anything about 
the actual move, and the psychic change from London to 
San Diego? 

It's funny. I never really heard much about the psychic 
change. He was thirteen years old when they came to San 
Diego. They never had a great deal of money. 

They had support from England for a while? 

Yes, six hundred pounds a year that was given to them by 
the family. Basically, the family had a lot of money, 
but they passed it on to the oldest son. That was the 
custom in those days. He was not the oldest son, so he 
didn't get in on that, but he did get in on something. 
They never had a great deal of money. But then, in 1894 
there was a depression, and they lost a lot of what they 



Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 

Evelyn Ratcliff: 
Robert Ratcliff: 

My grandfather was not a great moneymaker , but he 
was very concerned about education. He moved his family 
to Berkeley to go to college, because he and my 
grandmother felt this was terribly important, to get a 
college education. They came to Berkeley so that the 
three children could go to the University. 

Why did your father choose chemistry? 

I have no idea why he chose chemistry. I never actually 
asked him that question. Apparently, it didn't pan out 
the way he thought it would. He got to know Professor 
Edmond O'Neill, who was chairman of the department, very 
well. As a matter of fact, he became a lab assistant to 
O'Neill while he was an undergraduate. He did very well 
in chemistry. He was given a Sigma Psi for some 
independent experiments that he made. He got sick while 
he was an undergraduate , and his eyes began to give him 
trouble. They decided chemistry was too confining. It 
kept him inside too much. 

I wonder if it was some of the chemical fumes and things 
like that. 

No, it turned out to be his teeth. It turned out that 
he had to have a lot of his teeth removed. Whether this 
was just poor dental care, or whether it was some other 
problem, I don't know, but they pulled them out. He had 
a very good set of false teeth. No one would know that 
they were not the real thing. 

But just one jaw, wasn't it? 
Just his lower jaw, yes. 

Association with Louis McFarland. and Building Houses 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 

He started building houses in college? 

Oh, yes. I'm not exactly sure what the first spark was, 
but he built four or five buildings while he was an 
undergraduate . 

I've read that, and it's inconceivable! 
It seems inconceivable to me, too, but-- 



Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 


"He built houses." That means that he designed them and 
he contracted them? 

I don't think they were very elaborate drawings, but he 
made drawings of houses , and they got contractors to 
build them. Louis McFarland got people to put up the 
money to build them. 

Was Louis a contemporary of his? 

Yes, they were about the same age. 
a few years older, I think. 

Louis may have been 

I'm not sure what year they first met, but it was 
in his college time. This was really the beginning of 
the Fidelity Savings and Loan Association. They made a 
thousand bucks on each building, according to what I 
remember. Pete seems to remember the same. That was a 
lot of money. That was a heck of a lot of money. 

Louis came from the business end? 

Yes, he was a businessman. I think that his major would 
have been business administration, or something of that 

Had he been a great pal of your father's anyway? 

Yes. They had known each other. 

How did he know your father could build houses? 

I don't know that either of them knew they could do It. 
I think they just tried. 

California, the land of opportunity! 

When his parents came to Berkeley, they first came to a 
house on Arch Street. I've never identified which house 
it was. It may still be in existence. Then, they built 
a house on the corner of Euclid and Virginia, on the 
northeast corner. That was a pretty good house. I 
remember that house very well. I think he designed it. 
It was a two- story house, with four bedrooms. It had 
one-and-one-half -bathrooms , a nice living room, dining 
room, kitchen, and a study. 

Anything special that you can think of, in the way of 


Robert Ratcliff: 

Evelyn Ratcliff: 
Robert Ratcliff: 

It was just an old Berkeley craftsman- type house. It 
didn't have any big, special English background. It was 
just a wooden shingle house, roughly square [laughing], 
and you walked up about seven or eight steps, maybe ten, 
to an entrance porch. It had posts on the side of the 
entrance porch. As you went into a door, there was a 
stairway, and a living room on the right, and a dining 
room, and a study, and a kitchen in the back, and a 
little backyard. 

My grandfather used to sit in his study, with his 
feet up on his desk, and smoke a pipe. He had sulfur 
matches, made from a block of wood which had been put in 
a press, which separated it into a thousand little 
matchsticks, and then they dipped it in sulfur. He had 
one of those things, and he would be constantly lighting 
his pipe. The combination of the smell of these sulfur 
matches and the smoke was something else. I just 
remember him as sitting there in a cloud of smoke. 

He was a great, big, tall fellow. He was bent over 
when I knew him, almost completely bald. And he enjoyed 
walking, in the old English tradition. He was probably 
about the same height as my father, about six feet tall. 
My grandmother was about four feet tall, [laughter] 

No, she wasn't, but she was small. 

Okay, but she was pretty short. I used to have two 
grandmothers and a great -grandmother, and we called her 
"Baby Grandma." We called my mother's mother "Big 
Grandma," and we called our great -grandmother, Teresa 
Gillis, "Best Grandma." She was "Best Grandma" because 
every time we went to see her, she gave us a French 
gumdrop. [laughter] 

This is a pretty mixed-up conversation. 

The Legacy for Robert Ratcliff 


You say you don't know what happened to the chemistry. 
Well, why be a chemist when you could be building 

Robert Ratcliff: I think, as Evelyn said earlier, that he was really 

driven to do things. He was a very project-oriented 


person. He always had something he wanted to do, and 
that went on just about to the end of his life. If he'd 
go to the country, he was always either taking the 
garage door off and fixing something, or building. As a 
matter of fact, he started building a cabin, he and my 
mother, when he must have been seventy-five years old, 
so they could go up there and be in the same place, but 
not in the same building with their grandchildren, you 
know, which we discovered was a very good concept. We 
did the same. 


Robert Ratcliff: 

What was the survey party your father went on to Mount 

Yes. That was a summer project. He signed up for a 
survey party that was going up to measure the movement 
on a glacier on Mount Rainier and do some other things. 

Riess: That was in the college years? 

Robert Ratcliff: Yes, he would have had to be in college at that time. 

Whenever he spoke about it, he spoke about this as 
an assignment that Roosevelt had given to the district 
out here, and that he went up as a part of the survey 
team. He also thought Teddy Roosevelt was a very great 
guy and he was proud to have been a part of one of these 

I guess it was a good outing. He used to talk 
about how after they had finished their work somebody 
would get the idea they should go out climbing. He 
liked to do that. He felt that he had the greatest pair 
of climbing legs known to man, that he was very strong 
and very capable of doing that sort of thing. I think 
that it gave him a great deal of pleasure. 


Robert Ratcliff: 

Sounds like quite some person to be the oldest son of. 

Yes, a tough act to follow. He was a great provider. 
But with all these things that were given, you can see I 
used to be embarrassed, because we just had everything 
that we could imagine we might want, when I was a child. 
It's just absolutely embarrassing to think of all these 
opportunities that were made available- -horses , 



Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 

ponycarts, going skiing in the mountains, doing all 
these different things. It was just absolutely 
fabulous. That was really the hallmark of our growing 
up, as opposed to one which would have focused more on 
becoming prepared, and learning more about history, and 
reading more- -becoming more civilized, somehow. We were 
really a bunch of Indians. 

At what point did you actually feel embarrassed? 

Well, I felt embarrassed when I compare my experience 
with a lot of people who didn't have this experience or 
who didn't have access to these kinds of things. I knew 
lots and lots of my friends didn't have access to this, 
simply because their parents didn't look at things this 
way. They may not have had the money. I had always 
felt we were affluent. I always felt we had lots of 
money. I don't know if we always did, but we always 
felt as though we did, because there were just no bars, 
you know. 

Yes, that's wonderful. 

It is kind of wonderful. I think it's unusual. 

But burdensome , also? 

Yes. I realized that this was not a true picture of the 
real world, and I was bothered. 

Was the notion of noblesse oblige also part of it? Your 
father you described as enormously moral and so on. Was 
part of the message that you owed the world something? 

Yes, I think so. He was strongly motivated toward 
progress, making a contribution, leaving a legacy for 
the next generation. This did have an effect on me and 
the kind of friends I felt most comfortable with. 



Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 

My brother Pete was more socially inclined than I was. 
Early on he developed a large group of friends and was a 
leader in the group. As I remember it they played 
together most of the time and thoroughly enjoyed life. 
I enjoyed them too but felt at the time that there was a 
serious side that was missing. I think, later, most of 
them realized this and made up for it. 

Is it the legacy of the first son carrying the family 

Well, I felt the challenge, but I never felt as if I'd 
ever catch up with him. I always felt- as though he was 
probably the greatest guy that I'd ever get close to. 

Did you always feel that you would be an architect 
because your father was? 

No. I didn't always feel that way. And he didn't 
always think it was a good idea. He did not encourage 
me to do it. He didn't discourage me, either, but he'd 
just say, "Make up your own mind. Look at the world; 
look at lots of different kinds of opportunities." 

A Citizen of Berkeley 

Evelyn Ratcliff: 


I think that you should mention that your father was 
very active in civic affairs during the twenties. When 
his architectural practice was booming, he was very 
thoughtful of the community in helping with various 
community projects. He always was. I remember long 
before I knew the family that his name was very familiar 
to me, because he was in so many activities, and in the 
paper a lot. 

Is that because he was a banker as well as a builder? 


Evelyn Ratcliff : 

Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 

Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 
Evelyn Ratcliff: 

No, before that. I'm thinking of one period during the 
twenties, where almost any building you saw going up had 
his name on it. 

Earlier on, back in about 1915, he was made City 
Architect, and at that point they were contemplating 
building five schools. That, I think, got him started. 
He built all the firehouses in Berkeley, many apartment 
houses, commercial buildings and residences. He was 
also involved in a great many different civic 
activities . 

This was coming out of a background of* already doing 
many residences. 

That's right, a lot of residences. 

And so this was a way of being in the network of the 
city, to do this good work? 

I think it made him very visible and, certainly, 
involved. A lot of his friends were also involved in 
these public activities. Talking about Lester Hink--a 
lot of people were critical of him, because he became a 
powerful merchant, but he was a constructive person. He 
gave money to just about every cause in town. He 
participated in everything. He was very much involved 
in the development of the town. Lots of these other 
people were also. 

I guess there must have been some notion of it being an 
ideal town. After all, it had this great University. 
It was young enough. There would have been a lot of 
excitement about it. 

I am sure that he would agree with that. But strangely, 
he didn't do any work for the University, except the 
Morrison Reading Room. That's the only actual project 
on the campus that I think he did. 

Does that mean that he did not have a good connection 
with John Galen Howard? 

I don't know. 

But, you know, in those days the University Architect, 
Howard, did all the buildings at the time he was the 
University Architect. It was a later era when they 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 

started hiring outside architects to do individual 
projects . 

That's probably right. 

In any case, this was a sort of golden era of Berkeley. 

I think it was really a golden era. I felt that way. 
And Berkeley's just gone from gold to lead, sort of. 


The Sierra, and the Berkeley Hills, and John Muir 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Evelyn Ratcliff: 
Robert Ratcliff: 
Evelyn Ratcliff: 

We haven't talked about your father's connection to John 
Muir and William Colby. 

I think the connection to Colby, and the connection to 
Muir, came because his eldest sister married William 
Frederick Bade, and Bade was a close friend of Muir. As 
a matter of fact, Bade was the literary editor of Muir's 
papers after he died, as you probably know. He was 
involved early on in the Sierra Club. Before the Sierra 
Club started, I think they were friends. Bade was one 
of the early people involved in conservation. He was an 
archaeologist and stayed focused a little bit on digging 
in the ground, I suppose. Colby, of course, was a 
lawyer who focused on mining and water rights and things 
of that sort. Early on they became involved in the 
Sierra Club, the whole family did. They used to tell 
about a high trip they went on with Muir. I think they 
had only gone on one. It was a very important event in 
his life. 

A high trip. In which decade are we talking about? 
I think probably before he was married. 
It was before he married. 

He spoke of going into the mountains by himself with 
John Muir and spoke of how he took almost nothing with 
him, really, to keep warm or anything else. 

Robert Ratcliff: He went with Muir alone? 


Evelyn Ratcliff : 

Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 


I remember him saying that. And that he just had a 
shirt for warmth, one shirt, and practically nothing in 
the way of food. 

Okay, well, the high trip he went on was not like the 
high trip would be today, with a hundred people. A high 
trip in those days would be a high trip with maybe six, 
or eight, or ten people. That was the kind of a group I 
think it was. It's one where everybody joins in the 
camping chores, so you get very close to the people 
you're with. He felt that he did really get a very good 
feeling about Muir, an understanding of him as a person. 

Your father sounds like he was a very different person 
from Muir. I'm really intrigued to think that they 
might have done this together. I think of Muir as sort 
of solitary. 

He wasn't really solitary. He wasn't one who just 
talked a great deal, but he certainly talked on 
occasion. He was not a solitary person. 

Muir, you're talking about. 

No, I wasn't talking about Muir then. I was talking 
about my father. 

I was talking about Muir, and I'm thinking that the fact 
that he chose to go with your father is interesting. 

Evelyn seems to remember that they did it together. I 
seem to remember it was a small group. I'm not sure. 

So then was your father an active advocate in creating 
the Sierra Club? 

Oh, yes, very much so. He became a very good friend of 
Colby's, and I benefited by some of that, because then 
later I became a close friend of Colby's, too. He was 
very much a part of that whole movement, in the 

Is it Marion Parsons who's another? 

Yes, she used to live across the street here, 
friend of Evelyn's also. 

She was a 

What is the tradition of conservation that he came from? 
He obviously was interested in the mountains and land. 


Robert Ratcliff: 



Robert Ratcliff: 

The tradition of conservation was strong in England and 
supported strongly by his family. All English people 
walk and enjoy the country. It's just been a basic 
attitude that the family's had ever since I can 

When you were walking in those hills, it was before it 
became the regional park system. 

Robert Ratcliff: Oh, yes, 

Was your father involved in the creation of the park 

I don't think he was involved in setting up the park 
system. But I am sure that he was very supportive of 
the idea. 


There was an organization known as the Sierra Ski 
Club, made up of mostly University people. My father 
was involved in this I guess from the beginning. It was 
started by the Hutchinson brothers, Lincoln and Jim 
Hutchinson, who were both lawyers, and it involved 
Little Joe LeConte , and Eugen Neuhaus , and- -I'd have to 
get a listing written down. 

They always used to have a walk every Sunday 
morning and come by at noon, where we lived. I was 
working in the garden. They'd always come down and give 
me the works. It was really kind of a nice group of 
people, and I think most of these people would have been 
very strong supporters of the park system. They were 
all focused on this sort of thing. 

" 1928, EBMUD [East Bay Municipal Utility District] completed 
the consolidation of the water supply [and acquired] .. .substantial 
landholdings . Determining that the small cachement basins were no longer 
necessary, the Utility District promptly declared these lands- -some 10,000 
acres --surplus and available. Robert Sibley, Executive Manager of the UC 
Alumni Association, was one of the prime catalysts." [In 1928, with Hollis 
Thompson, Berkeley city manager, Sibley organized the East Bay 
Metropolitan Park Association] . A Vision Achieved. Fifty Years of the 
East Bay Regional Park District. EPRPD, 1984, pp. 4-5. 


John Galen Howard, and the Hearst Mining Building 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Somewhere along the way, after graduating in chemistry 
from the University in 1903, your father worked for John 
Galen Howard on the Mining Building. 

He was in his office when the construction on Hearst 
Mining Building [1902-1907] was underway. Julia Morgan 
was also there. Morgan was on the design team on that 
building. I think the design period may have been a 
year or more, or two. And I think he was with Howard a 
couple of years. 

How did he get that job? Was he paid? 

I never heard, but he always was able to draw pretty 
well, which probably got him the job. Prior to working 
for John Galen Howard, his uncle Howard Ratcliff, who 
was the eldest son in the family, who had the money in 
England and who was a very concerned family individual 
--he was trying to follow the family and keep it 
together- -financed my father to go to Europe and go to 
the English Academy in Rome for about two years. 

First he decided he wanted to be an architect, and 
his Uncle Howard said, "If you want to be an architect, 
you'd better go and study someplace where it's really 
well-taught, and that's Rome." The English people had 
an idea that the Rome Academy and the Ecole des Beaux 
Arts in Paris were the only two schools worth going to 
in Europe . 

I wonder why he didn't send him to the Ecole des Beaux 

Robert Ratcliff: I don't know the answer to that. 
Evelyn Ratcliff: He probably didn't like the French. 

Robert Ratcliff: 

Well, maybe some political reason. I don't know. 
Anyway, he did go to France, but he focused on Rome. 

He came back after about two years , then went to 
work for Howard, and among the projects he worked on was 
the Mining Building during the time when it was being 
constructed, not in the initial stages. He remembered 
this as a great experience. He told us how he dropped a 



Robert Ratcliff: 


gold watch which his Uncle Howard had given him into the 
foundations . 

Did he say anything about working with Howard or Morgan? 

No, outside of that he knew Morgan, because Morgan was 
there, but, you know, 1 just didn't ask him enough 

It's okay, and I'll ask you too many questions. 

A "Gentle Man* 

Evelyn Ratcliff: 

Robert Ratcliff: 

Evelyn Ratcliff: 
Robert Ratcliff: 
Evelyn Ratcliff: 

Robert Ratcliff: 
Evelyn Ratcliff: 

Robert Ratcliff: 

Bob's father was quite reserved. He was not hail 
fellow, well met at all. He was private. I don't mean 
unfriendly. He was friendly, but he was definitely- - 
reserved is the right word. 

This is, he would have told you, an English 

Yes, I think it is. 

One of which he would be proud. 

It came naturally. He always spoke quietly. I never 
heard him raise his voice, ever. 

And I never heard him use a foul word. 

No, and he was kind and gentle, no cruelty of any kind. 
He wasn't interested in hunting. He didn't really like 
animals, but he was kind to them, and animals liked him. 
I remember when our oldest daughter brought her pet 
rabbit out from Philadelphia, after she was married. I 
came into the shop one day. Pop was working, and the 
rabbit was sitting on his feet, [laughter] He would 
tolerate it, and he would never be mean, or hit 
anything. But he'd just as soon that they kept their 
distance. Of course, our cats would always get in his 

He used to say that the word "gentleman" means exactly 
what it says. 

Evelyn Ratcliff : 


Robert Ratcliff: 

Evelyn Ratcliff: 
Robert Ratcliff: 

Evelyn Ratcliff: 
Robert Ratcliff: 

Evelyn Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 

He was very close to his mother and admired her very 
much. There was a close bond between them, I think, 
more than his father. 

You noted for me that he was very economical . 

Well, you know, that always impressed me very much, how 
economical my father was about little things, and with 
big things as well. He got it, I'm sure, from his 
mother, because his mother never bought a new skirt if 
she could mend her old one. She just really reused 
everything she had until it was completely gone. Well, 
my father was the same way. He was very economical 
about everything he did. You ought to have seen the old 
shoes he used to wear, when he was around the garden. 
I'd do the same thing. 

But he always dressed up nicely. 

Yes. He was more conscious, I guess, than I was, by the 
time you knew him, Evelyn, [laughter] 

He would always dress for dinner, and he wouldn't go 
downtown except very nicely dressed in a suit. 

He was economical, for example, when he took a shower. 
He got in, turned the water on, got wet, soaped himself 
all over and did all his washing, and then he turned and 
rinsed himself off. Well, I didn't know he always did 
this. I could hardly believe this when I first 
discovered it. I asked him about It. "Well, there's no 
use wasting all that water!" 

He was before his time, wasn't he? 

I always felt that was a characteristic example of his 
interest in efficiency and effort to avoid waste. 

Locating the Ratcliff Office in Berkeley. 1909 


After leaving John Galen Howard's office he was 
associated with Henry Schulze, briefly, and then with 
Alfred Henry Jacobs? Who were they? 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 

You know, that Henry Schulze I had heard about, but I 
don't remember having heard that from him. Jacobs I did 
remember. Where did you get the name Schulze? Did I 
give it to you? I think I did, because I read it in 
some document someplace, but it actually was not 
something I remembered. 

How about Jacobs? What do you know about him? 
trained man? 

Was he a 

Jacobs, I do remember a little bit about Jacobs. They 
did one building in San Francisco, and I never knew 
which building it was. I guess several things probably 
happened. One, he decided he really wanted to work by 
himself. He didn't want a partner, and the partnership 
didn't last very long. I think it only lasted for a 
very short time, and he came to Berkeley. 

There was some debate about when he came to 
Berkeley. I think it was 1908 or 1909. I'm not really 
sure. Some things I read say that he came to Berkeley 
in 1911, but I don't think that Jacobs partnership 
lasted that long. I think it was a shorter period than 
that. I think he came more like in about a year or so, 
about 1909 or maybe 1910. 

Several reasons I think that. One is that he 
couldn't have done all the work that he did over here in 
one or two years. He had to have a longer time to do 
that. He didn't do it with Jacobs. He did it on his 
own. I know that, so I think it's more likey that he 
came by 1909. 

I don't think he enjoyed that partnership with 
Jacobs very much. They may have had a personal problem. 
I don't know what it was, or whether it was just a 
difference of opinion about how you did things , or 
whether it was that the commute to San Francisco was 
awkward, or whether he thought there were more 
opportunities on this side, or whether Louis McFarland 
bent his arm. 

Probably several different things happened, and he 
just decided that it would be better, that the 
opportunities were okay on this side of the bay. I 
think he went to San Francisco first, thinking because 
Howard was there that that's where the big opportunities 
would be. Probably he was right, that's where the big 



Robert Ratcliff: 

opportunities were. But there were good opportunities 
and advantages to living and working in the East Bay. 

When he was talking about big opportunities, do you 
think he meant office buildings, rather than residential 

Oh, I don't know. I think he was interested in both. 
And some of the residences he did are enormous! 

Learning bv Doing 


Evelyn Ratcliff: 

Robert Ratcliff: 

Evelyn Ratcliff: 


Evelyn Ratcliff: 

What do you know about his studies in Rome? 

I know he was there for many months . He did the grand 
tour of Europe, and it was all- -not eastern Europe, 
because people didn't go there in those days, but all 
the western powers. 

I'm not sure how long he was there. 

Well, you're both architects. How do you figure he 
learned how to do what he did? 

I think he picked it up on the job. [laughing] Some 
people do. 

But those four buildings that he did when he was in 

I know that always seemed quite remarkable to me, 
because he didn't have a tradition in the family. If 
his father had been an architect, building contractor, 
or something, he might have been around jobs enough, and 
so on. 

When I was in college, and we had Engineering of 
Steel Beams. I visualized the beam as the cross- 
section, [laughing] The handbook has the cross- 
sections, you see. I thought for a long time that was 
the whole beam. Well now, you see, the boys in the 
class, a lot of them had summer jobs working around 
buildings and all. Now, don't misunderstand me, I did 
perfectly well, but it's a perfect example of the not- 
so-practical, isn't it? I did all right in my courses, 
but I didn't really. I was as good at stuffing a 





Evelyn Ratcliff: 

Robert Ratcliff: 
Evelyn Ratcliff: 


Evelyn Ratcliff: 

formula as the next one. I mean, I think you get a lot 
by osmosis if you're around construction, but he wasn't 
ever around construction. That was what was remarkable. 

He had a lot of home projects going, though. 

Well, I'm thinking about college. 

I know. I understand. 

Oh, yes, he did have private projects. 

He was pretty good. 

Yes. The lamps were always being broken. They had the 
Chinese vase lamps on each side of the sofa in the 
living room, and someone was always knocking one of 
those over. And I can just see your father [laughing] 
gluing those pots together. He sighed when it happened, 
but then he really patiently- -you know, honey, when he'd 
criticize or correct anyone about anything, he always 
did it in such a gentle way. In a way, it was all the 
more impressive. 

Did he really love what he was doing, do you think, with 
the architecture? 

I think he did enjoy the architecture, much more than 
the banking. 

Oh, yes. He didn't enjoy the banking very much. 

No, he didn't. He did it because he was practical in 
his point of view, having grown up with not much money. 
As Bob has mentioned, the family had money. Well, his 
mother and father- -they ran a school, didn't they? So 
they didn't have much money, and when they were in this 
country, they were really poor, down in San Diego. 
Earning money was very important to your father. He 
always kept his eye on the ball, as far as being 
practical about making a living. 

Well, it's interesting that he chose architecture, 
because wasn't that a day when architecture was a 
gentleman's profession? Architecture was a profession of 
a person who could afford to be an architect. 

Well, I don't know about that. It was always, 
certainly, considered a gentlemanly pursuit. That might 


be right, that for generations the people who went into 
it already had a living, a guaranteed living. Could 
well be. 

Architectural Associates and Influences 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 

What were the influences on him, through his friendships 
with other architects- -Gutterson, perhaps? 

Well, the ones I heard about, the ones he chose to do 
the schools when he was architect for the city of 
Berkeley, were [Ernest] Coxhead and [James W.] Plachek. 

[Lewis P.] Hobart and [C.H.] Cheney? 

They did Willard 

I didn't ever 

Hobart, yeah. I don't know about Cheney, 
hear him talk much about Cheney. 

Walter Reed did Burbank School. 

[George] Kelham was a friend of his. 

Do you think of them as influences on him? 

He didn't have a great many architects in his social 
circle. The social circle he went with all the time was 
a different group of people. I guess it's just the same 
today, almost- -well, not maybe right now, but when we 
graduated we got to know everybody. I'm sure he knew 
everybody. All architects know all architects, just 

Is that so? 

Well, it used to be. It isn't that way with me now 
because there are so many young people. But fifty years 
ago that was so. Sixty years ago. 

Is it the same as saying, "All doctors know all 
doctors," or is architecture more visible? 

No, probably not, but it was a much smaller circuit. 
There just weren't that many, I guess. I felt that way 
within the Bay Area, but I am not talking about other 



Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 

And, of course, all architects know about all of the 
highly publicized architects. Do you think your father 
was interested in what Frank Lloyd Wright was doing? 
Would he have followed published work? 

Yes, he had a large library of publications. He was 
well -published himself, a lot of the time. He never met 
Frank Lloyd Wright, but he was very impressed with Frank 
Lloyd Wright and admired his work. It's not exactly 
what he would have done, though. Maybeck was a close 
friend of his, and they had a good relationship. 

Talk about that. 

He was very much aware of the works of other architects, 
and 1 think influenced by their work. He was both 
critical and selective. When it came to design he was 
of the "Old School." Because his formal architectural 
studies consisted only of a year at the Rome Academy 
followed by a grand tour of Europe, he was aware of the 
fact that he needed more background, and he developed a 
pretty good library of books. He actually had a 
librarian, and the books were all indexed and marked as 
they would be in a public library. 

Sources for Styles. Books and Travel 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 

So when he had a client they could ask for a certain 

His first love was English architecture. He liked the 
English cottage style, when it came to houses, very 
much, and all his early work had a very strong feeling 
for that. He also liked the Spanish style, too. 

That's what he picked up when he went to Mexico? 

Picked up in much greater detail, but I think he started 
with some lean in that direction, too. He was doing 
work that seemed to reflect something other than the 
English style before he went to Mexico in 1922. 

He was not really interested in producing something 
which would have such a strong common denominator that 
it would be recognized as one of his projects. He was 
more interested, really, in serving his client, to try 



Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 

to figure out what that person really liked and then try 
to do something that would be really in that mood. I 
think there's quite a bit of variety in his work, 
although it feels very strongly as though it has an 
English origin or a Spanish origin, one of the two. 

Also, he was much more inclined to go to a book and 
find a detail and reproduce it than architects today 
would do. In his time it was perfectly proper and in 
good taste to do that. However, by the time we 
graduated it was not thought of as being a very good 
thing to do. You were supposed to be original, to think 
it up yourself. You might be influenced by some 
Renaissance proportions, or scale, but you wouldn't be 
caught making a detail with a Renaissance flavor. That 
would be considered copying, and decadent. It was not 
the proper thing to do, for the younger generation. 

When he was doing his work- -the Pacific School of 
Religion for example--! know that they just got the 
books out and copied the details from different 
cathedrals in France and England. They also did this 
with a lot of his Spanish work. They chose what they 
thought they liked, personally, and then imitated them. 

In some ways, it might be fair to say that this was 
not one of the most creative periods in architecture. 
Design appears to have been more a matter of judgement 
and taste than a matter of creativity and innovation. 

Well, I suppose the people had a choice of who they 
asked to do their houses, and if they chose him, they 
didn't want Maybeck coming at them with some original 
coloring or some original surfacing. 

I thought Maybeck himself was strongly influenced by his 
background. He was a Beaux Arts man, and he spent a lot 
of time in Switzerland. You can pretty well see in his 
houses the influences that came from both those 
directions. You can also see a classic sense of detail. 
You can see a kind of a freedom and abandon, somehow a 
sense of-- 

Freedom and abandon? Where does that come from? 

Probably from his own nature, from within, but I think 
his experience in Switzerland had a strong influence. 
Maybeck does some things like Frank Lloyd Wright, but I 
have the feeling that the more Frank Lloyd Wright gets 


to really study something, the more details become 
complicated. He almost gets lost in these details. I 
look at Maybeck's work as being much freer. Maybe he 
relies more on his inspiration than on the formula he's 
decided for the building. 

When Frank Lloyd Wright got into his hexagonal 
mood, everything got to be hexagonal, regardless of what 
it was, which I don't think would have been the same 
with Maybeck. Both of these people were determined- - 
Frank Lloyd Wright, especially. Maybeck seemed to me to 
be more flexible and more open. My father, on the other 
hand, was strong-minded about what he felt was 
appropriate and in good taste, and he had strong 
feelings about design. I don't feel he was a great 

Developing Clients 


Robert Ratcliff: 

Riess : 

Robert Ratcliff: 

Where did his clients come from? How did he get his 

I think he started with friends. A lot of clients 
probably came because they liked his work and him 


Charisma--! think it's a pretty big factor in how people 
get together. I don't think, however, that you'd get 
together because you thought a person had charisma and 
no other talents, but I do think if you thought they had 
other talents and had charisma, and you had a choice, 
you'd take the person that you related to well. He was 
easy to relate to and one you could feel a great trust 
in, I think. It seemed obvious to me, and I think it 
did to most people. 

Also, people enjoyed and agreed with his taste. He 
was careful about what he did, and he just did things 
very well. That was another quality I think you sensed. 
It wasn't going to be slipshod. If it was done, it 
would be done as well as he could think of doing it. 
That was a characteristic that I think could be felt 
quickly and easily. 


The Ratcliff Office, a Steppingstone from Architecture 

Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Evelyn Ratcliff: 

Robert Ratcliff: 

Also, that attracted the people who came to work for 
him. He had some wonderful draftsmen. When you go down 
the list of architects in the area who came a few years 
after he did, almost all of them worked in his office at 
some time. 

You listed Art Dudman, Charles Hasten, Lester Hurd--. 

Charlie Hasten and Lester Hurd worked in his office 
before World War I. They went into the war together, 
became captains in the same regiment and went through 
the war in France . 

When people were graduating from UC Berkeley, was your 
father's office one of the natural steppingstones out 
into the world? 

I imagine it was, because it was so close. But he 
didn't have an enormous number of draftsmen. And 
actually, there weren't that many architects. 

There weren't that many architects, period? 
Not locally, no. 

Right. The total number of architects was rather small. 
Even when we graduated, there were only eleven people in 
the graduating class, not the great big number of people 
that it is today. Well, Arthur Jory, who was Stafford 
Jory's brother, was another one who worked in my 
father's office. I don't think Stafford did. Hike 
Goodman didn't, because he wasn't here. 

When I went for my first job, it was at the end of 
the Depression, and there wasn't very much work around. 
I got a telephone book in San Francisco, and one of the 
first crimes I committed was to tear the yellow section 
on architects out of the book, in the Palace Hotel 
coffee shop. I lined up all the architects on Post 
Street, on the northside, on the southside, and Sutter 
Street, and so on. That way I could make a quick tour 
and not retrace my steps too much, [laughter] I was 
surprised that nobody had any work. But I went down the 
whole list, and about half of them had worked in my 
father's office. I was just amazed! 


Riess: They acknowledged that when they met you. 

Robert Ratcliff: Yes. They would say, "Oh" my gosh, is that what your 

name is? Well, heck, I used to work for your old man!" 
It was interesting. It was the same then as it is now. 
They shifted around. Many of them may not have worked 
with him a very long time. 


[Interview 2: April 19, 1989 ]## 

Berkeley's City Architect. 

1914. and his Vision of the 


In 1914, your father became City Architect of Berkeley. 
But you were hardly cognizant of this event, obviously. 

Robert Ratcliff: No. In 1914, I was one year old. [laughter] 


Robert Ratcliff: 

What do you think your father's vision of Berkeley was, 
as City Architect, and as planner? 

I think he was very impressed with the opportunity that 
he had, and that other people had, in Berkeley, 
principally because the University was here, and because 
after the San Francisco fire there was an enormous 
interest in living on this side of the bay. The Key 
System was put in, and the whole thing became really a 
wonderful suburban community. 

He designed a great many houses for people. Some 
people think he didn't really enjoy the bread-and- 
butter sort of things. I think that there probably were 
some he might have considered to be bread-and-butter 
type, but he had some wonderful clients, when he got 
going. For Senator Arthur Breed, he did a Renaissance 
palace in Piedmont. He had some others who were 
interested in doing really very fine houses, and I think 
they turned out very well. 

As a matter of fact, as I look back over his work 
I'm surprised at how quickly he seemed to jump into 
fairly big league in terms of the kinds of buildings he 
was doing. He did the Elks Club, for example, which was 
also back in about 1913. 



Robert Ratcliff : 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 

What do you mean by "big league?" 

Well, he was not only just doing residences, but he was 
doing some of the major buildings in Berkeley, and 
apartments, in 1914 or so. 

In other words, you're amazed that he was getting these 

I was surprised that he jumped so quickly into this. 
When you think of his background, he graduated in 1903 
in chemistry, went to Europe and studied architecture 
and came back and worked for John Galen Howard for a 
couple of years , went to work as a partner of this man 
Jacobs in San Francisco for about a year or so, then 
opened his office in 1908, and by 1910, he was doing 
some of the biggest buildings on this side of the bay. 
He had such a remarkably quick transfer from chemistry 
to architecture on this scale, and to some of these 
wonderful residences that he was doing at that time. I 
have often been amazed that he somehow transformed 
himself that quickly into this field. 

How do you speculate that happened? Is it because of 
where he was in the community and his acquaintances, or 
was it an innate facility? Was it his connection with 
Howard, or knowing the McDuffies? What, do you think, 
made it happen? 

Well, I think he had an ability that he discovered and 
that he could develop very rapidly. He also put 
together a wonderful library of books that he referred 
to. I think he found some talented young people to work 
with in his office, and, somehow, it just happened, that 
it's possible to do that. When I compare that episode 
with my own, I feel as though I developed much more 
slowly than he did. 

The Architect as Master of the Building Trades 

Robert Ratcliff: 

He somehow just was able to absorb the situation 
quickly, and he had the concept in the beginning, and it 
probably went right through his whole life, that the 
architect should be not really considered as a 
professional but considered as the person at the top of 
a building business. It was terribly important for an 



Robert Ratcliff: 

architect to be also a craftsman and to also know 
exactly how things were put together. The nature of 
materials was terribly important to him. 

I used to walk in the hills with him, and we used 
to discuss how buildings were made. I went out on 
projects with him when I was pretty young. I can 
remember going to a project one day with him, and they 
were making the plaster out in the streetyou know, 
they always made their plaster in those days. They had 
this big bin of lime in the street which was curing. 
They had to put water in and then wait for a couple of 
days for it to develop, and then the plasterers came and 
mixed all this stuff on the job. 

Well, I can remember that he told the fellow, "You 
can just take the plaster off. It is not mixed right." 

It was an Italian plasterer, and he said, in a big 
accent, "What's the trouble?" 

"Well, it isn't right." 
"How can you tell?" 

"You can smell it. You can tell just by smelling!" 
Your father knew that, and the Italian didn't know it! 

He really knew what he was doing, and I found that true, 
also, much later, when I was getting ready to take the 
state examination. One section was on specifications, 
and so we were walking in the hills, and I told him I 
wanted to talk about specifications that day. So we 
talked about specifications. "Well, what kind of 
specifications do you want to talk about?" We talked 
about different things, and I was absolutely bowled over 
by his knowledge of how things went together, what you 
look for, the kinds of problems that you ran into. 

I think that this on- the -job craftsman's knowledge 
has to some extent been lost to the newer generation. 
It's a little bit like the landscape architect who does 
not know very much about plant materials, because 
emphasis is on general designs and construction and 
overall effects. When it comes down to the plant 
materials nowadays, you almost have to hire a plant 
material specialist to get the plant material detail. 
Architects don't go as deeply into this now as they did 
in those days . 



Robert Ratcliff: 

You're not making an argument for a Beaux Arts type 

I had that myself, and I'm not arguing that. A Beaux 
Arts education, as a matter of fact, really didn't give 
you this either. A Beaux Arts education is still 
dealing with classical details that have been passed 
along. It is a sort of historical approach to 
architecture which my father really had. I don't think 
he ever really escaped from his interest in English 
cottage architecture. Christopher Wren was one of his 
big mentors, and he never really got out from under the 
influence of that, or the influence of the time he spent 
in Rome and time he spent on his grand tour of Europe. 

Thoughts on Maybeck. Gutterson. Thomas. Howard. 
Bakewell. and Brown 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Besides Christopher Wren, who else did your father 
consider as a mentor? 

Well, [Frederick Law] Olmsted was another one of his 
great mentors. He felt Olmsted had a broad vision, and 
he did a lot of talking about him. And who was the 
architect down in San Diego who did the Balboa Park? 

How about the locals, Maybeck and Willis Polk, people 
like that? 

He admired Maybeck, but felt that he was not a practical 
man. My father was actually a pretty practical sort of 
person. He put more value on that, I think, than 
Maybeck did. At least he considered that he did. I 
think he was impressed with Maybeck' s ability to design, 
and his free thinking. 

Maybeck was an awfully nice person. Wherever he 
went, people just loved that man, not only as a designer 
but as a person. Mrs. Maybeck would get nervous about 
what he was doing because she'd be afraid that he'd do 
something wrong, sticking his neck out. She'd come and 
talk to my father about that, because she was more 
practical than he was. 

What do you mean, "wrong?" 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 

Well, when they were writing a specification about 
something, or they were writing a contract with 
somebody, she'd be worried that maybe they weren't 
covering all the bases properly. 

How was your father supposed to intervene? 

He told me that a lot of times he wrote agreements for 
Maybeck. Mrs. Maybeck would bring down papers and say, 
"Do you think this is the way it should be?" He'd go 
through them and change them around to the way he 
thought it should be, and then she'd be satisfied. 

This is all behind Maybeck 's back, I take it. 

Well, it wasn't all so transparent, 1 think. Somewhat, 
but it was a very friendly arrangement. 

It was acknowledged by Maybeck? 

Yeah, until Gutterson got in the act. Gutterson got in, 
and Gutterson' s a pretty practical fellow, too. 

So Gutterson took over that role . 

Yes. I think so. Gutterson was a terribly nice guy. 

It's interesting. It sounds like it's a profession of 
nice guys. I didn't think- - 

You didn't think so? Oh, I don't think I ever met a 
good architect who wasn't a nice guy- -that's the way I 
feel --except Frank Lloyd Wright, who was nice to a lot 
of people, but just a bastard to some. 

Well, maybe it's just more recently that there are these 
flamboyant personalities. But whether they're nice guys 
or not-- 

Oh, okay. I guess "nice guy" has to be defined more 
clearly. I feel as though the people I've known, that 
I've admired, have all felt they had a kind of a 
responsibility to other people, in architecture, because 
they were trying to do something that would benefit 
their community and benefit the people they worked for. 
Julia Morgan was the kind who just said, "What is it you 
want?" and then she would carefully, methodically, try 
to give you what you asked for. Maybeck would say, 
"Well, I don't know about that. I'm going to have to 


Robert Ratcliff: 

come and live with you for a while before I can 
understand it." Gutterson was the same kind of guy. He 
would be very careful and think about what you told him. 
I think my father did the same thing. Each one 
supported by his own background. 

It's interesting that what finally comes out in print 
about these people is much more in terms of style. 

The style comes out. Going back for a moment, the 
person I was trying to think of [at Balboa Park] was 
[Bertram] Goodhue. He was another mentor of his. He 
was a leader in the Spanish revival. He did all these 
towers and buildings down in San Diego. 


Robert Ratcliff: 

Yes, that's right, 
buildings . 

He's the one who did the fair 


The fair buildings and stuff like that. I must say I 
think it leaves a little to be desired, but that 
impressed my father quite a bit. As a matter of fact, 
when he came to Mills College he started doing things at 
Mills College which I thought were very reminiscent of 
Goodhue ' s work . 

Had your father traveled to see those buildings, or was 
this from publication that he would have known them? 

Robert Ratcliff: 1 think he went down to see them as well, but I think 

most of it was publication. He didn't travel very much. 
Traveling, for him, was not a thing of interest, really. 
As a matter of fact, he went to Europe that one time and 
he never went back to Europe, which my mother was 
unhappy about. She wanted to go. She never had been, 
and she never did go. 


Well, maybe he didn't want to dash his notion of the 
blessedness of the English. 

Robert Ratcliff: I don't know. It's possible, [laughter] 


Robert Ratcliff: 

So you don't know, for instance, whether he saw all the 

Oh, I don't think he did see them all. He saw some of 
them. He wasn't really trying to go that far back in 
his thinking. 



Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 


It was at a time when there was kind of a dispute 
among architects as to whether you should put columns in 
front of every bank, and if you did, whether you should 
design them, or just go and buy them? I mean, what's 
the difference? If you want a Doric column, well, buy a 
Doric column; don't design it, because it's something 
everybody knows . 

Where did this dispute take place? 

Well, just generally people were beginning to wonder 
whether this was the right way to do architecture. 

Are you talking about the twenties? 

I guess it happened in the thirties, because I was one 
of the ones that argued that way. 

John Hudson Thomas was doing some extremely different 
things . 

I think Thomas hasn't gotten as much recognition as he 
should have. He was a wonderful designer, I think. 

Was he someone who your father palled around with? 

Oh, yes, he knew him. I don't think they were great 
bosom pals, but he knew him. I met him, with him, 
several times. My father was interested also in city 

Can you remember any particular impression that your 
father might have had of John Hudson Thomas? John 
Hudson Thomas was open to an extraordinary number of 
influences . 

He was sort of a medievalist, almost. Sam Hume's castle 
up there on Buena Vista is a very strong statement, I 
think. A lot of things he did are really strong. Have 
you ever been in his own house? 


Gee, it's a beauty, 
go in that sometime, 
powerful building. 

It's out in Kensington. You should 
The Williams School was another 

Yes, it is. In this book that we were both looking at, 
Bay Area Houses, it refers to his stylistic touches. I 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 

was thinking that he brought to the Bay Area something 

He brought it in, but I don't think anybody else really 
picked it up. A lot of his work is almost unique in the 
area. I don't think many other people were doing it his 
way. He had a very creative mind, and his work ought to 
be looked at carefully, because it shows a lot of 
independent thought. 

Your father did not choose him, for instance, to be one 
of the architects of the five Berkeley schools. 

I don't know why he didn't. I know that he thought 
Hobart was a good architect. I think what he did at 
Willard School was spectacular. I don't know if you 
remember it before it was wrecked, but it was a 
wonderful concept for a school. It's been replaced by 
something which is really quite unfortunate by 
comparison to what was there. 

To go back to the influences on your father. His first 
architectural mentor was John Galen Howard? What did he 
take from that experience? 

Well, I think probably it sort of underlined the 
classical approach to architecture that at that time he 
understood. I think this gave him a much broader 

Do you think that Howard was one of those people who 
knew materials and was the top of a team of builders in 
the way your father was? 

I cannot definitely answer that, but I sort of doubt it. 
I don't think he really was. It's hard for me to think 
that my father got more than a confirmation from Howard 
that this was a legitimate kind of architecture. He did 
learn some techniques, how to put a building together 
and how a big office is run. 

He knew John Bakewell pretty well. I don't know 
how much he got from him. And Arthur Brown pretty well. 
They were, also, doing the same kind of work. He knew 
them in a social way, almost more than he knew Howard in 
a social way. He never worked for Bakewell and Brown, 
but I know that he felt they were pretty spectacular 
people. Bakewell was considered the more practical man, 
and Brown was considered the more politic man. [laughs] 


Apparently, Brown was the one that got out and went 
to the parties and brought In the work. Bakewell sort 
of stood there and figured it out and put it together. 
I don't know who did the designing. I guess they both 
did, but Bakewell was somehow more involved in the 
production and the office working apparently than Brown 
was . 

Downtown Berkeley Contacts, and the Merchant's Exchange 
Building in San Francisco 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 

Well, now that you've brought up that vision of the 
architect as someone who has to go out to the parties to 
bring in the work, and you talked about your amazement 
that your father was able to leap into it so quickly, 
what part did that play, the going out to the parties? 

I don't know how he got spirited into the cross-section 
of people who were really the movers and shakers of the 
time , but he became involved in that group very early 
on. I don't know whether it was going to parties or 
not, but it was being on boards and getting involved in 
social things, and making statements about what he felt 
should happen. 

Somehow, there was a group of people who were doing 
the planning for the city. It was a small group of 
people, probably wasn't more than twenty people who were 
doing all of the basic planning for what was going to 
happen. He became involved with that group, and as the 
projects went on, he was the principal architect 
involved. He just simply got all the work. I don't 
know if that's an oversimplification, but it seems to 
have worked like that. 

I don't know how you actually steer yourself into 
that. Your choice of friends is your business, and you 
go to places where your interests are and where you 
think you can be effective. He got very close with all 
these characters in Berkeley, very early on. 

Well, we're talking about whom? 

Oh, Hink, McDuffie, Radston, and who else? I've 
probably got a list of them somewhere; I could give you 
a long, long list of people. He went and played tennis 



Robert Ratcliff: 


a good deal. For example, he met this man Billings who 
lived in Marin County and was a good tennis player, and 
he used to take a weekend and go play tennis with 
Billings in Marin County. Well, Billings was big in San 
Francisco, and I don't know what he did, but through 
Billings he got this Commercial Club job, which was the 
thirteenth and fourteenth stories of the Merchants 
Exchange. So that really brought him up for air, and 
into view. People could see him, and he did a good job 
on it. From that I think he got quite a spinoff. You 
don't know where to go to find this kind of energy, but 
this happened to him a great deal, I think. 

To work back a bit, it sounds like the association with 
Louis McFarland was very important. 

That's another one. He knew Louis a long time before 
they formed the Fidelity Savings and Loan Association. 
They started doing work together, and Louis knew a lot 
of people. He was good at smelling out where the money 
was [laughs], and so that did help a good deal. 

Also, I think he did a lot of work with Louis that 
he might have considered just bread-and-butter stuff. 
They were just building houses to make money and meet an 
obvious need- -sort of speculative kinds of things. I 
tried to discuss this with him at one time. "Why don't 
you take me around and show me some of the stuff you 
did?" And he said, "No, I don't want you to know. Some 
of the stuff I did should be anonymous . " 

I didn't press it. If I'd pressed it, I think he 
would have, but the explanation was that they were doing 
a lot of promotional work, and that a lot of the houses 
he designed they repeated, and twisted and turned, and 
gables were put in and dormers were put on, and stuff 
like this. He didn't really have too much control over 
the projects, nor did he think they were awfully well- 
designed buildings. 

Of course. I mean, there would be nothing wrong with 
creating a kind of model of medium- range housing with a 
certain charm. 

Robert Ratcliff: It was low-cost housing, in a way, you know. 


Excellence in Materials. Plaster Work 

Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 

One of the things that impressed me a good deal was his 
standard of excellence. He was very much impressed with 
the concept that buildings should grow old gracefully, 
that the parts should wear out together, that pieces 
shouldn't break off because they were not well- 
conceived, that they should be thought through all the 
way. That permeated his work. I think a lot of his 
residences will probably survive a very long time 
because he gave a lot of thought to that kind of thing. 
1 think he understood it. 

So he would be horrified at the plaster that was not 
going to ripen or whatever. 

He absolutely couldn't stand it. 1 used to use his own 
house as an example when I first did plaster buildings. 
It was built in 1914 and was virtually in perfect 
condition in 1940. 

I used to take plastering contractors to see it and 
tell them, "It doesn' t have to crack, but it depends on 
several things. If you guys do it right, it won't 
crack. " 

When I did this house, right here- -you can see the 
ceiling--! said, "I want you to put on a float finish, 
and I don't want to see any trowel marks." The 
plasterer said, "It's impossible." I said, "Oh, come 
on. It's not impossible! It's possible." And he said, 
"You can't show me a job." So I took him over, and I 
showed him his [my father's] house. "Oh," he said, 
"Okay, 1 can do that, but nobody else in my shop can do 
that." I said, "Well, I'm hiring you . " 

But I had to actually show the plasterer a job 
before he would accept the fact that it's possible. Of 
course, the other thing with plaster is that it's been 
adulterated to the point where it's almost impossible to 
get good plaster anymore. You buy it in sacks. And 
they've got gun plaster, which they can put in a gun and 
squirt on the building. When they do that, they have a 
certain combination of materials that will go through 
the gun. Everything is made so it's easy for the 
plasterer to apply, it's made sticky, so it doesn't fall 
off, so you can put more on the palette. In the old 



days you didn't do it that way. The quality of the 
material came first and you had somebody inspecting it 
who knew what he was inspecting. 

There have been changes in some of our materials, 
and some of our techniques, based on union rules which 
say you can't lift more than five or six pounds, or lay 
more than so many bricks. Therefore, the units have to 
be smaller, or easier to apply. Many things have 
happened. Some materials have improved. However, a lot 
of the things that depended on on- site labor have 
deteriorated in quality. In order to get something good 
you almost have to get it premanufactured and applied- - 
built in a factory and applied on a job, not made on the 

In all big buildings now, almost everything is 
manufactured and applied. You only accept the finished 
product. You don't have to accept poor workmanship. If 
you want to build something, you get it assembled ahead 
of time, and accept it before it is installed. That's 
the technique. Industry's done this. If you set the 
computer to work, you can do some things more accurately 
than the human being could do it. That's what we're 
aiming for. 


Was your father interested in color, for instance in the 

Robert Ratcliff: Yes, he was interested in color but not in strong 
primary colors the way people in warm climates use 
color. I think he would have said that he preferred 
natural colors , the kind you find on eucalyptus trees . 


Robert Ratcliff: 


What would he think of the house on Tunnel Road today? 
The one that was the Nickerson house, I guess. 

I think he would say that they damaged the house by 
painting it. I thought it was much better when it was 
white then it is in this color. 

Did it start out white? 

Robert Ratcliff: Yes, it was sort of a natural plaster color, but it 

wasn't a green plaster. It was a natural light color, 
California stucco. 



Robert Ratcliff : 


Robert Ratcliff: 

What is the difference between stucco and plaster? You 
must tell me. I don't understand. 1 think of my house 
as being stucco. 

Stucco is plaster. 

Well, then, when do you use either term? 

There's cement plaster and lime plaster. Lime plaster 
is essentially used on the inside of the building, and 
cement plaster is on the outside. Stucco is a color 
coating made of Portland cement with some lime in it 
installed as the final finish coat over a cement or lime 
plaster base. It is more durable than lime plaster. It 
is applied as a thin finish coating for durability, 
color and texture. Pure Portland cement would turn out 
to be like concrete. The trouble with lime is that it 
is soluble in water. If you put very much lime in the 
exterior plaster, it doesn't last. A certain amount of 
lime makes it much easier to work. That is why they add 
lime to Portland cement to make stucco. 

Exterior plaster is normally a three coat job. The 
first two coats form the body of the plaster. You put 
the first two coats on in quick succession so that 
they'll hold together. The scratch coat goes on first, 
then the brown coat goes on second to build up the 
thickness to somewhere between three-quarters and an 
inch thick. The stucco, about an eighth of an inch 
thick, is a color coat, with a finished texture. 

Cement plaster, to be really good, should have 
almost no lime. The problem with doing it that way is 
that it's much harder to work. Lime makes a juicy kind 
of mix, and it sticks wherever you put it. Well, you 
try to get them to do a good plaster job these days, and 
they just load it up with lime to make it easy. When 
they do that you get much more expansion and many more 
cracks. It's not nearly as strong. 

Swedes and Italians, and the Craftsman Tradition 


It seems like what you're describing as your father's 
architecture is buildings and materials that one knows 
and understands. 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 

Yes, he felt inadequate if he didn't think he knew as 
much about the work that workman was doing as the man 
who was doing it. He felt that that was his 
responsibility, to know enough so he could tell that man 
pretty much how he should do it. 

That's why, maybe, your father is considered to be in a 
craftsman tradition. 

I think so, I think it's fair to say. He would have 
said that, perhaps, himself. However, he felt very 
strongly about design, and he felt very strongly about 
color. He felt very strongly about the involvement of 
the landscape and the position of the building on the 
site, and the relation it had to the community. These 
things he was very positive about. There was nothing 
halfway about his decisions when he made them. 

It's interesting that he had these strong feelings 
without having them informed by reading or a particular 

I think he was in continual contact with architecture 
that was being done. He kept up on the publications, 
for example; he just had every magazine, and he indexed 
them. He had every volume of Architectural Engineer for 
I don't know how many years. Great stacks of these 
things . 

When your father sniffed the plaster and said that it 
was not the right mix, or whatever, how did he learn 
that? Did he have just the most superior craftsmen at 
some point? 

There were superior people in the trades , and I bet you 
that he didn't use more than three contractors in the 
major work he did around town, and they were all 
Swedes --Sorenson, Nordstrom, Carlson- -they didn't even 
speak English sometimes. He'd go to a job, and these 
guys were all speaking some foreign language. 

What about Portuguese, and Spanish, and Italians? 

Yes, there was Haschio. The only stonemason that he 
would use was Maschio. He came from some place in Italy 
or Sicily. People like that, they came with a great 
tradition behind them, and they were real artists. 



these practically first-generation immigrants? 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 

Yes, all of them spoke with an accent. They brought the 
old world know-how to this country. They represented 
the difference between the Middle Ages, or the 
Renaissance, and the Modern period. And that difference 
reflected in the drawings on the buildings. When you 
made drawings on the buildings, if you wanted a 
Corinthian capital, you made some wiggly lines and said, 
"That's what we want." You got a lump sum bid for 
making it, and then later in the office they would make 
a full-size drawing and give it to the person. Then 
they'd go back and make it. 

In Renaissance times I think they just made wiggly 
lines without making a drawing, and the craftsmen made 
the thing. We've come all the way from that. At the 
present time, if you don't show each line on the set of 
working drawings, you pay extra for it. At the same 
time, we have young kids who are trying to be craftsmen 
and trying to do these things themselves. We're going 
around full cycle. We have reached a point where people 
recognize the reward of being a good craftsman- -a 
personal satisfaction, you know, being able to do it. I 
think it's kind of interesting. 

I think it's very interesting, 
was at the point where--. 

In your father's day, it 

He was sort of in the middle. Drawings were simple, he 
used the wiggly line and depended on craftsmen. 

Still the full working drawing stage? 

Well, working drawings for a very elaborate building, 
which would have four or five sheets of drawings about 
that big. They would be the working drawings. But then 
when it came to building it, they would make full -sized 
details of every blooming thing. You made them on 
detail paper, which was just craft paper, and it would 
come in a great big roll. They would roll this detail 
paper out and roll it up at the other end of the table. 
When the mill man would come out they would give him a 
roll of paper that was thirty feet long, with all these 
details on it. 

The Hogan Mill in Oakland was one of the big shops 
for doing this kind of thing. These Hogan brothers, the 
two little guys would come out. They did some work for 
me later. As a matter of fact, I made drawings that 
way. In my father's day they were all made that way. 



Robert Ratcliff: 

Riess : 

Robert Ratcliff: 

The Hogan brothers had worked for my father for thirty - 
five years before I came along. They were just on the 
way out when I came along. 

Did your father go down to the mill and look at wood, 

Yes, these guys would bring it out. I mean, they 
couldn't be more cooperative. You'd tell them, 
"Absolutely straight grain something-or-other , " and, 
boy, you got absolutely straight grain something-or- 


That's so interesting, and your story of the plasterer 
here, that in fact he could do it, but you had to push 
him and push him. 

I had to, because he was hiring people that he knew 
wouldn't do it. The standard of the trade had dropped 
to the point where you had to really insist on it. The 
standard of the trade, when my father was working, would 
have not accepted anything less than this. On-site work 
that had to be made- -well, anything that had to really 
be made on the job takes more supervision now than it 
did then. The standards were much higher. 

Walter Steilberg. Friend and Neighbor 

Riess: You know those ceramic squares that were set in houses? 

Robert Ratcliff: Yes. Steilberg used a lot of those. 
Riess: Yes. Did your father? 

Robert Ratcliff: He used them, too. I think he may have gotten the idea 

from Steilberg. 

Riess: Was that something that had suddenly become available? 

Robert Ratcliff: I think that the Chinese were shipping stuff over all 

the time, and those were used for vents, mostly. It was 
a good idea. The Mexicans used to do this by stacking 
up Cordoba tiles. 

Riess: Your father and Walter Steilberg were about twenty years 



Robert Ratcliff: 

They weren't that far apart. When was Steilberg born? 
Was it '94? '90? I would say more like ten to twelve 
years difference, something like that. 

They knew each other, but they weren't socially 
close friends. I'm sure they did things to a certain 
extent together, but they didn't ever work together. I 
got to know Steilberg much better than my parents did, 
partly because Evelyn knew Steilberg. She lived here a 
block away, and she played with Helena [Steilberg 
Lawton] . I got to know him in college because he kept 
track of what was going on in the University. He also 
had some independent ideas on things that I was 
attracted to. And I used to talk to him about 
architecture. I found he was a great guy. I enjoyed 

Social Life and Musical Life 


Robert Ratcliff: 

Riess : 

Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 

Did your mother operate as a sort of social creature in 
advancing your father's career? 

My mother's family was well-connected with the upper 
crust in San Francisco, and part of it because her 
grandfather had made a lot of money during the Gold 
Rush. They had a lot of money. 

Did they entertain potential clients? 

No, they were a little bit cagey about that. I don't 
think they ever entertained for the purpose of getting 
work. They entertained for social purposes, and that 
was all. They were a little bit critical of people who 
didn't do it that way. 

The standards you were living by were really pretty 
fine, weren't they? [laughter] 

I tell you, you were very careful not to ever, ever 
suggest that you were doing this for any other reason 
but to be a pleasant person. I grew up with that 
feeling. As a matter of fact, I'm still critical of 
people who are self-serving and attempt to somehow put 
themselves forward in that sort of way. 



Robert Ratcliff: 

Evelyn Ratcliff: 

Robert Ratcliff: 

Though, on the other hand, you might meet people at the 
club or on the tennis court. That would be okay. 

Well, when you meet people, and it's a genuine meeting 
for common interest, that is one thing, but to invite 
them to your house to have dinner and expect to get from 
that some other benefit, that is different. Somehow, 
you're working a person over. That puts them in an 
awkward light. I was told that that was something you 
never did. 

As a matter of fact, they had a lot of parties at 
their house. It was a good house to entertain in, with 
a wonderful room for music, and they had a lot of 
musical events. Both of my parents liked music a great 
deal. My father took part in some of the events with 
other people. Helen Berryhill and Charles Mallory 
Button were two of the great people who came to these 
parties. Helen was a good singer and played the piano 
very well, and she was an enthusiastic person. 

Charlie was going to be a concert pianist at one 
time. He decided he was not good enough. He spent a 
big part of his life in Paris. He very seldom 
performed, but he had a wonderful sense of humor and he 
took the floor most of the time. He was almost always 
the center of action. 

My father also played the violin and sang quite 
well, and so he usually functioned as a performer in 
these things. They were really quite exciting, as a 
matter of fact. There was a gal named Ruby Helder, a 
lady tenor, who came and sang. It was one of the 
curiosities, I thought, of the whole thing. 

She was the wife, for a while, of the artist Chesley 
Bonestell. Bob was born in the house where they had 
lived. Later he [Bonestell] gave us his painting of the 
house . 

We had a very, very interesting interchange with these 
people, and that drew out a lot of people. You'd be 
surprised the people that came out of the woodwork to 
join in these musical evenings. They were just 
wonderful people. 

Henry Gutterson did a house for Charlie on the 
corner of Bridge and Tunnel. It's owned by Mrs. Reinke 
now. it is one of the great houses in this town, right 
across from McDuffie. Maschio did all the stonework. 


It was Maschio who built the big wall for McDuffie along 
Tunnel Road. I don't know if you know that. There's a 
stone wall that runs for the whole block from The 
Uplands over to Roble Road. He did most of the good 
stonework that was done. I'm not sure if he did the 
Blind School work. I think that that wall around the 
Blind School was done by somebody else, but that's a 
good job, too. I bet it was done by an Italian. 

[C.R.] Somewhere along in there I decided to take 
up singing. I loved to sing, and I was encouraged to do 
this by my family and also by the fact that my father 
sang. I started with Mrs. Beckman, who was a neighbor 
who lived down on Chabot Road, and I worked out with 
Mrs . Beckman for several years . I never seemed to make 
much progress. However, I don't think she did me any 
harm. I guess she really had an idea that may have been 
sound, but somehow it didn't take with me. 

I sort of broke this all up by moving from Mrs. 
Beckman to a gal named Bowman in San Francisco who was 
an opera singer and who had lived in the opera circle, 
which was a very fast-moving crowd, and who believed in 
the hands-on technique of just trying for it even if you 
couldn't do it, and sort of abusing your voice in the 
hopes that somehow, through this abuse, something good 
would come. That sort of cooled me off after a short 
time with that woman. I stopped taking lessons, [end 

I'm sorry I never got off the ground far enough to 
satisfy myself. I don't think they knew how to teach 
music, frankly, very well. Not nearly as well as they 
do now, because there were not really a great many very 
good singers. The really good ones were few and far 
between, whereas nowadays they're just by the dozen. 
The operas are just filled. Everybody can sing well, 
somehow. They've learned how to teach it. 

Riess: But for you it was just part of being well-rounded? 

Robert Ratcliff: Oh, I thought music was interesting. I suppose I had 

been pushed by my parents' interest in music, but I 
didn't know what I wanted to do, originally. I thought 
maybe music would be something I'd like to do. I 
studied the piano, and I studied singing. I thought 
maybe I'd like singing better than the piano, so I 
studied singing more vigorously than I studied the 
piano. I got down to the point where I realized I 



Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 

Riess : 

Robert Ratcliff: 

wasn't making it. I thought that would be a nice 
avocation rather than a vocation. 

I read that your mother helped your father on the 
Berkeley Country Club. What did she do? 

Well, she was interested in plants, and she used to go 
out and talk with him a great deal about the landscape 
arrangements and things. She wasn't a landscape 
architect at all, but she had been exposed to a lot of 
nice stuff when she was young, and she came by it 
naturally. She wasn't trained in that at all. 

Did your mother and father work together on anything 
else that you can think of, or was that special? 

Well, I know that she was very interested in his work 
and that she was very sensitive to color. They used to 
discuss color schemes for projects, and planting and 
garden arrangements, and that sort of thing. Those were 
the principal things I think she felt she could offer 
some ideas on. As a matter of fact, they discussed 
those things quite a bit, and she went on many, many 
projects. She worked on Mills College a good deal. She 
was up on various different projects. The Berkeley 
Country Club- -she spent some time discussing that. 

This was after you children were a little more grown up? 
No, we weren't grown up, really. 

But there was someone at home, so that she felt free 
enough that she could go off and work on it? 

Yes, there was someone at home. We had a woman, a sort 
of a housekeeper, named Mrs. Leary, a fabulous woman who 
was with us a good deal of the time. She was a great 
woman. We all got to love her very much. 

Remodeling the House on Roble Road, and Creating a 


Do you remember the remodeling work on your house in 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 

Oh, yes. Sorenson did it. He built the house 
originally, and he made the alterations, with a bunch of 
Swede carpenters . 

Did you come racing home from school in order to be 
there and watch? 

No, at that point I wasn't all that focused on those 
kinds of things, but I was interested in what they were 
doing. And we were always making things, projects. 

For instance, if there had been some wet plaster around, 
would you have taken some? 

Well, I was interested in knowing how you could tell 
whether it was good or not, and I was interested in 
seeing how they did it. I learned a great deal just 
watching those guys. I was very interested in the 
process. Then later Frank [William Francis] Giauque in 
chemistry, when he was in college, came up and built us 
a little wooden stable in our backyard for our two 
ponies. He and another friend. 

Why he? 

He was a college boy, who needed a summer job. Somehow, 
they found him. Whoever would have guessed what he 
would turn out to be ! He was a very good worker and a 
good carpenter. I used to go and sit out there with him 
and hammer a few bent nails, and stuff like that, and 
watch him work. It didn't take a long time. It wasn't 
a big building, you know. [C.R.] After we got rid of 
the horses in Berkeley I added onto this building which 
Giauque had made, plus another room, and made a museum 
out of it, and we transferred all my museum stuff into 
this building. 

I was very interested in bones and things, and 
butterflies and flowers and whatever. I had started the 
museum earlier. We put together skeletons of horses and 
sheep and cats and birds, and tried doing some skinning 
of animals and that sort of thing. Once we went up in 
the hills and found bones of a dead horse, and a few 
dead cow bones. We put them together and made a 
skeleton out of the two. 

Some things we boiled down. We boiled down a 
chicken at one time, which was a real disaster. It 
didn't come out too well. That's a very complicated 


thing to put together, a chicken. We also buried a sea 
lion one time and dug it up about a year or so later. 
That was also sort of a disaster. It didn't really 
completely disintegrate. Leonard Eliel and I dug this 
thing up, and we found this pool of dark brown oil that 
stank like anything. Anyway, we got bones out of it, 
and we finally put together part of the skeleton, but it 
wasn't awfully successful. 

Another thing that happened fairly early along was 
that Miss Hewitt came up and started her school for 
young preschool children at our place. Finally, it was 
continued down on Benvenue. I didn't actually go to 
this, but I guess perhaps my sisters Muriel and Margaret 
were the first ones that really went there and got the 
full flavor of the whole thing. 

Mrs. McCoy also taught music and eurhythmies, which 
were sort of an outgrowth of something that Dalcroze had 
developed, where you beat time with your body and. your 
arms in time with the music, and at the same time you 
might make a rhythm of two-four with one arm, and three- 
four with another, and four- four with your stamping of 
your feet, and so on. It was a kind of a coordination 
exercise. She was great for coordinating body actions 
with musical rhythms. She was also great for ear 
training. All of us had very strict ear training 
lessons, which was interesting, and I think stuck with 
some of us still today. 

Then we went to John Muir School and Willard School 
and did all the things young people do. [end C.R.] 

Riess: But your father didn't have that same kind of experience 

in his own upbringing, of watching people build things? 

Robert Ratcliff: I doubt it, because his father didn't know anything 

about building. I think my father did most of the fix- 
it jobs around the house, because his father was really 
not interested in that sort of thing. His father was 
the last scholar in our family. He spent all his time 
smoking a pipe and reading a book, as far as I could 
tell. My father spent no time smoking and very little 
time actually studying and reading books, as far as I 
could tell, and almost all his time on architecture. He 
worked very hard. 

One of the problems I felt, and I think he probably 
also felt, was that he spent very little time with us, 


because architecture to him was practically a seven-day 
job. It was a six-day job, at least. Sunday afternoon, 
we usually could shake him loose, and we always had a 
big meal in the middle of the day on Sunday, in order to 
break the routine. After that, we generally took a 
great hike. I don't see how they did it. I would think 
after a big meal like that I'd want to go to sleep, but 
they seemed to be able to handle it. 

Planning. Zoning, and Burying Creeks 

Riess: This idea of Berkeley being the Athens of the West: when 

your father was thinking about city planning issues, I 
wonder if he had any actual or ideal place in mind. 

Robert Ratcliff: I know that he was on the planning commission in the 

beginning, when they first set up a zoning ordinance and 
when they first attempted to make a plan for Berkeley. 
I know that he was very distressed when they covered up 
all the creeks and somehow ignored the natural features 
of a site, simply to make more space for developers to 
do their things, and a more mechanical arrangement- -a 
rectangular street system, and stuff- -that really didn't 
look like the possibilities that were suggested by the 
creeks that ran through. 

I know that he talked to Duncan McDuffie about 
that, and McDuffie was strong for protecting the 
environment. I know that there was much talk about what 
was happening out on Solano Avenue when they did develop 
that area, because there was a nice creek that went down 
through there . He went out and argued that one , and so 
did McDuffie. McDuffie's original plan called for 
keeping that creek and making it public land all the way 
down. McDuffie was strong for this. The trouble was, 
you couldn't save it unless you made it public. This 
meant less land to develop, it meant taxes to maintain 
it, et cetera, et cetera. All the practical boys rose 
up and said, "You can't afford to do this. You simply 
have to develop this land." 

I remember a little bit about the Solano creek 
argument. I don't remember about the Berkeley creek 
argument, but probably the same kind of thing went on. 
It was the same thing that happened when the University 
decided to build a stadium. Every architect just 



Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 

screamed about that, but you couldn't get past the 
regents on that one. It was too bad. On Solano, people 
said, as I am sure they said about other Berkeley 
creeks, "We can't afford to keep that open. There's 
nobody who's going to be able to maintain it, and it'll 
just be a place for garbage, for all this kind of 
stuff." So they just put a pipe in and developed it. 
That's pretty sad, because Berkeley had the opportunity 
to become a nice Carmel-type village, or to have the 
Carmel-type village feeling, at least. But the power of 
the dollar was too strong. 

It was the same when Burnham made the plan for San 
Francisco after the fire, you know. He had a lot of 
wonderful ideas that were just run over. He tried to 
outlaw the twenty- five foot lot, and stuff like that, 
and couldn't get past the real estate agents and the 
bankers, or the developers who were able to call the 
tunes . 

And yet there was enough money in those days, in a way, 
to have been more generous . 

I think so, and it was the old English tradition, you 
know. That's one place where my father got this. If 
you go to Australia or New Zealand, you'll just see 
this. It's just remarkable. 

Greenbelts . 

When they laid out a city. They first set aside some of 
the best land for the public. They had a city plan in 
mind. Big waterfront sites, islands, rivers, creeks- - 
these things became public land before anybody was 
permitted to build buildings. I tell you, it's 
something to behold. My father tried to carry that 
tradition here. McDuffie tried it. And the prospectors 

Even though the prospectors were probably among his 
close friends, weren't they? 

They probably were, although I don't know that they all 
were. I think the money interests were not necessarily 
just twenty strong-minded people. I think there were 
others. There was considerable pressure, apparently, to 
do this. I just don't know what the details of what 
happened. I know it didn't go by without being 
considered. I know it didn't just automatically happen. 


I know that there was a group of concerned citizens that 
got wiped out. 

"To Go Beyond Oneself 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 

In the article about your father's work in Architect and 
Engineer [May 1916, Vol. XLV, No. 2], the author wrote 
about "the divinity of man and the godlike qualities 
latent in the humblest of us, and the use of simple 
materials, and the kind of ennobling of this 
architecture of humble origins, taken up by strong 
architects." "Men of feeble purpose follow classical 
tradition." Were those concepts prevalent, or was that 
just this author's flight of fancy? 

Well, I think they were, probably. I think that man is 
developing his philosophy rather than the philosophy of 
someone else, frankly, but I think that those ideas had 
some influence. They were certainly part of the 
atmosphere of that time . 

The conclusion of this article was to congratulate 
Berkeley for choosing a first-class man for public 
buildings . 

Well, my father was capable of being pretty objective 
about an assignment. He also felt that Willis Polk, for 
example, was very objective when they started designing 
the 1915 fair. He was given the job, and he could have 
taken any building on it that he wanted, but he passed 
them around to people he thought could do a good job. I 
think he wound up not doing a single building in the 
whole fair, thinking that he would finally do the Palace 
of Fine Arts, but Maybeck beat him out. 

He [my father] was very impressed with that. He 
was impressed with that was because that sort of struck 
in him a chord. He believed that this was an important 
quality to have, that you were willing to see yourself 
in context with others around, and in serving that 
client, do the best for the client, putting yourself in 
objectively only where you could do the best job. I'm 
sure that he would have said that he felt that. 

And so when he got the job for the Berkeley schools 
he started thinking, "What would be the best combination 



Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 

of talent to do this?" He thought that the Coxhead 
brothers were just fabulous. He thought Hobart was 
great. Down the line, he got four or five architects 
for the different schools. 

A lot of people may have seen that and admired him 
for doing that. They thought he was a great person. 
Beyond being an architect, he was a great person. I 
think that's the kind of thing that people respect, a 
good human quality. 

He had the example right on the campus of a master 
architect who really didn't let it get out of his 
hands --John Galen Howard. 

That is true. That is exactly true. I never heard him 
comment on that, but Howard never really could let it 
out of his hands. On the other hand, I think Julia 
Morgan did probably more design on the Mining Building 
than Howard. She was working on it at that time. 

I interviewed John Gregg a long time ago. He was 
supposed to be the landscape architect but he hardly got 
a chance to do a thing under Howard. 

Today there are architects who want to do it all 
themselves, the so-called big stars who want to be 
responsible for every detail. There's room for 
everybody. There's room for those fellows, but there's 
also room for the other approach. 

In Bay Area Houses, I read: "Thomas, along with his 
Berkeley contemporaries, Gutterson and Ratcliff, settled 
down to two decades of design in the dollhouse 
idiom. .. [spotting] their fairy tale cottages all over 
the hills of Berkeley."* 

I suppose what that means is that he repeated many of 
the same features in many of the houses he did, so that 
they became recognized. 

I think it's in part a matter of the scale of the 

Shrinking them down? 

See "Life in the Dollhouse," by David Gebhard, in Bay Area Houses. 
Peregrine Smith Books, 1988. 


Riess : 

Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 



Then I think that's a justified statement in some ways. 
When a person wants an English cottage and can't afford 
one of the scale in which he'd like to have it, maybe 
what has happened is that they have condensed some of 
the material down to a smaller scale in order to get it 
all in. I think that is a fair criticism. I've thought 
about that myself a few times . I think that probably 
the intent was to give the impression of something 
grander than there actually was, which I don't think is 
an awfully laudable thing to do. Perhaps that kind of 
thing happened. 

That sounds like just what you were saying: give the 
client what he wants. 

I think it was more like give the client what he wants. 
I can't tell you what was exactly on his mind, but I 
think that was the result. I agree with that. I think 
he might agree with that, too. When I think of [John 
Hudson] Thomas, I'm not really sure of an example that 
makes me feel that he did that, but it might be true. 

Site Work and Landscaping 


Robert Ratcliff: 

Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 

As to the landscaping, did you father work with anyone, 
or was that always part of his drawing? 

Oh, no, he worked with Gregg a good deal. 

Did he? Like on the Tunnel Road house, the Nickerson 
house, which has a lot of grounds? 

I don't know. He might have consulted. I never heard 
of who he did consult, if he did consult anyone. 
Possibly, he consulted Gregg. 

When he gave a client a drawing, it would include base 
plantings and things like that? 

Well, yes, some general site development work would be 
shown on the original drawing, but the detail would all 
be developed afterwards. 



Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 

In his office or out of his office, do you think? 

Well, I think some of it was done in his office, and I 
think, also, on some projects someone else did it. 

What would have been the tradition in that day, vis-a 
vis landscaping? I mean, would it have been something 
that you assumed that you would get along with your 

[pause] Yes, I guess it probably would be, but I'm not 
really sure. Domestic landscape architecture I think 
may have developed after architecture. I think 
architecture was always a little bit ahead of landscape 
architecture. Landscape architects came along to help 
the architect, rather than the other way around. In a 
sense, it was optional for the architect whether there 
was a landscape architect. 

Well, there was Frederick Law Olmsted, of course, but 
Olmsted did the big schemes? 

He was a city planner. He was looking at much bigger 
projects. He was a very, very powerful person. 

He had his time in Berkeley, too. 

Oh, he had his time almost everywhere you go, it seems. 
I can't imagine how he got around so much. He and 
Goodhue had a terrible fight when they were doing Balboa 
Park. Goodhue maintained that the building should be 
the centerpiece. Olmsted maintained that a park was a 
park, and the landscape should be the centerpiece. 

My father's sister's husband, William Frederick 
Bade, after she died he married a Marston. Marston was 
then the person who was promoting Balboa Park in San 
Diego. He was the big mover and shaker down there at 
that time [1915]. 

My aunt tells about how she waited on the table 
when Olmsted and Goodhue came to dinner. They were 
discussing this subject: what was going to dominate the 
park. The dinner party broke up, with everybody going 
his way and nobody happy. After the dinner party, 
Olmsted resigned, because Goodhue had won. He couldn't 
stand to work with Goodhue. 



Robert Ratcliff: 

Well, I guess we could all wish that Olmsted had spent 
more time in Berkeley. Maybe the Solano Avenue 
development could have been different. 

Yes, I don't know if he said anything about that. I 
wish he could have had more influence on the way 
Berkeley was developed. 

The old English concept was that all major cities 
and all major urban areas should focus on open space. 
The whole community needs to be thought of in this way. 
It needs to be a space which all would be proud of. 
It's something that we all have an interest in. The 
English tradition is that you went and did that first. 
And that is just so beautiful, I think. 

American Trust Company Building. 1925 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 

Let's talk about the Wells Fargo Building, Berkeley's 

The twelve-story building. It was first called the 
Berkeley Center Building. Then it became the American 
Trust Company Building. It's now Wells Fargo. Each 
time it took the name of the company that took the 
ground floor. Actually, in the beginning, when it 
opened it was American Trust. I think the working 
drawings still carry the name of the "Berkeley Center," 
or something like that.* The key person on that was 
John Drum, and I have no information on him. 

Drum was the developer? 

Yes. The concept was that they would get some big bank 
tenant on the first floor, and then they would rent the 
upper floors to offices and become a Berkeley office 
building. It started out as a six-story building. Then 
they discovered that they could provide the same space 
in twelve stories as cheaply as they could in building 
six stories over the entire lot. 

* Architect and Engineer, February 1926, refers to the building as 
'office building for the Mercantile Trust Company, Berkeley." 



Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 

I think they were intrigued with the concept and 
thought that it would give Berkeley business a focus, 
and identify them as well. Of course, in those days 
there were no restrictions on height. There weren't any 
comments, I guess, outside the drafting room, until 
construction got started. They went ahead and did this 
twelve -story building, and then, all of a sudden, the 
University got in the act, and they were horrified by 
the fact that there would be competition with the 

Oh, so it was the University that was most outraged? 

Yes, the people who thought of this as a university 
town. They could just hardly stand anything that would 
compete with the Campanile, to identify Berkeley. 
However, it was too far along to stop at that point, so 
they went ahead and built it. He was criticized for 

It was not something that came under zoning or planning. 
You said there was a planning department. 

Yes, there was a planning ordinance but it did not 
stipulate a height limit. He really got in hot water 
with a lot of people at the University. 1 think there 
was a lot of talk in the newspaper and a lot of angry 
conversation. I don't think it ever got beyond that. 
Also then, I think, they began thinking about making a 
law putting a six story limit on any building in town. 
For a long time that held. Later it didn't. Now we're 
back to downgrading everything again. 

Did your father have immediate regrets? 

I don't think he did. I never felt that he was 
apologetic about it. I think he felt that it was a good 
building, and I don't think he felt that it damaged the 
University. I think his banking friends agreed with 
him. They felt that it was just a lot of hot water 
boiling. After a while, it cooled down. 

Was it admired in architectural circles? 

No, I never heard any comments of admiration from other 
architects. 1 think other architects were a little 
sensitive about the idea and were a little critical of 
the concept. They felt it was a little out of scale in 
Berkeley. I think that was really the basic criticism. 




Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 

It was out of scale with the other buildings in Berkeley 
and, to that extent, out of place. At that time, I 
think, it was probably a valid criticism. 

What he was saying--! don't know what his business 
friends were sayingmaybe that this was the first of a 
breed, that there would be a lot more. There was the 
other side, probably Keeler and others, who were saying, 
"That's not where we want to go. We want to stay as a 
low- intensity community. We want to keep down the human 
scale. We don't want one of these great big tall 
buildings in our town." I think he might have agreed to 
that, after the dust settled. I don't know. 

Actually, I think it's a nice-looking building. 
It's restrained, carefully designed, and the use of 
brick and artificial stone is pleasing. For its time, 
it was a pretty creditable job. The basic criticism 
people had was the twelve story concept. 

A lot of time, things happen after the fact, 
because nobody really has a sense of what the 
implications are. I think the conversation and the 
uprising that occurred after that just precluded anybody 
else doing it again for a pretty long time. The outcry 
was by some pretty sensitive Berkeley citizens who saw 
this as a wrong direction. 

Charles Keeler was still around? 

Oh, yes, and he was a good friend of Keeler's. This 
would have an impact on him, you know. 

That would hurt. 

That would hurt, yes. So I think the criticism got to 
him. I don't think he would have done it twice. 

W. H. Ratcliff. Jr.. On the Job 

Riess : 

Robert Ratcliff: 

When he was doing the bank, that was a point where the 
Ratcliff office was big and booming? 

Yes, they were working across the street. I talked to 
him a little about the size of his office, and he had 
eight draftsmen from about 1920 to about 1930. That was 
a pretty big office in those days. 



Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 

Did he keep the same crew, or was that a lot of people 
rotating through? 

I think that the same crew was there most of the 
twenties. However, I am sure that a lot of people went 
through. He had a number of draftsmen before the war, 
and when they came back after the war they didn't come 
back to his office. [Charles] Hasten and [Lester] Kurd 
were among those. During the 1920s I remember meeting 
most of them, but the three I remember were [Art] Dudman 
and Scott Haymond and Hathaway Lovell . 

These are people that came out of UC? 

I think they all came from DC, yes. 

Did he give them a lot of training and responsibility? 

I think he did. However he did almost all the field 
supervision himself. In Berkeley, he used to run 
between jobs. He was a very good physical specimen, 
this crazy guy who would run from one job to another, 
rather than drive an automobile. 

You mean, if he had a job in north Berkeley, he would 
run to south Berkeley? 

He might run to it, yes. His office was centrally 
located on the corner of Center and Shattuck in the old 
First National Bank of Berkeley. It was on the second 
floor of this two-story building. It was torn down 
several years ago to build the second twelve -story 
building in Berkeley. Now there are two on that corner. 

The Great Western Building, right. So he actually ran 
to the job? How did he dress on the job? Was he in a 
white shirt and vest and tie? 

No. He would go to the office with a white shirt and 
coat and tie, but every time I saw him in the office, he 
had taken off his tie and his coat. He didn't run 
around Berkeley in a tie and a coat. 

He worked very hard. He got to work very early in 
the morning, got to the office and went through all the 
projects, leaving notes for each person before the day 



Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 

So if he had eight draftsmen, he had probably eight 
different projects going? 

He might have had eight projects --probably he had more 
than eight projects, but eight projects that were in 
critical stages, I would assume. 

What would he do in terms of the design? 

Well, I rarely saw him with a harder pencil than Eagle 
drafting. I think he did a lot of free hand sketching. 
He probably used a T-square in the beginning, but when I 
knew him, he was deeply involved in design 
administration and supervision. Scott Haymond wrote a 
lot of the specs, although I think he also wrote specs 
himself. He was involved in every stage of the work, 

If he didn't do that much detailing in the beginning, 
then he counted on being on the job and able to make 
changes on the job? 

Well, the working drawings did not have a lot of detail. 
Details were generally full-sized during construction 
and actually, a lot of decisions were made on the job. 
Many more decisions were made then than are now. Today, 
you're supposed to make drawings that are complete. You 
supervise, to be sure they're carried out. In those 
days you made drawings , but in many of the details you 
expected to have a little leeway. In order to do that, 
you had to really keep up with the construction, so you 
were ahead of the boys a little bit. You had to know 
what was happening. He felt supervision was a very 
important aspect of the work. I must say I feel the 
same way today, even though the techniques have changed. 
It's still possible to make quite a difference if you 
give it careful supervision. 

It sort of reminds me of what I've always felt about 
photography --that I don't worry that much about the 
negative, because I know I can make the changes in the 
darkroom when I'm printing. On the other hand, I also 
think that if I made better negatives, I'd be a better 

The end product is the building, and you can't let it go 
until it's finished. 


The Talent in the Office 

Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 

He had some very talented guys working for him. He may 
have suggested the direction, and I'm sure that a lot of 
the credit for the quality of the work, and so on, goes 
to the people that worked for him. 

Did they get that credit from him? 
about that? 

Was he generous 

Yes, I think he was, but publications didn't give that 
kind of credit that I know of. That's one thing I feel 
a little sensitive about, too, because I feel as though 
when you work with a lot of highly trained people who 
are bright, good workers, good designers, they really 
deserve a lot more credit than they normally get. That 
certainly goes for today. Yet there is a tendency to 
simplify things down to one name, and give the credit to 
the office. It certainly was true with John Galen 
Howard, and I think it was true with most offices. In 
truth a lot of credit goes to the people who made the 
drawings during the time when things were being done, 
but that doesn't usually show up in the records somehow. 

At what point do you elevate someone who is one of your 
draftsmen to being one of your partners? 

Well, that's a good question. 

He didn't do it with any of them, did he? 

No, he didn't. As a matter of fact he decided early on, 
after he was with Jacobs, he didn't want any partners. 
He didn't want any partners, really, in anything he did. 
He didn't want a joint venture. He didn't want to 
become entangled with other people's problems. 

That's the key? He didn't want to be "entangled with 
other people's problems?" 

Maybe it is. He felt that being independent was really 
for him. That was central and important. 

Did he pay his draftsmen well? 

I don't know what they got. I imagine they got paid 
well. He was a very generous guy. I know that during 
the Depression the office went down to one man, Scott 



Robert Ratcliff: 

Haymond. Scott had no other income, and my father 
continued to pay Scott all the way through the 
Depression and through the World War and everything 
else, even though there was really no work in the 
office, because he somehow felt the urge to keep his 
doors open, for one, and also felt obligated to Scott 
for the work he had done during the twenties. 

Of the other eight, was Scott the last one he wanted to 
let go because he was the most talented? 

Well, he became the senior person in the office. Scott 
was a pretty complete fellow in many ways. He was very 
good at sketching. He was extremely quick, and he knew 
the code inside-out and backwards. He was good at the 
office work as well as the design work. 

When I knew Scott, I didn't really agree with his 
outlook on design, I didn't feel that he was giving 
enough thought to it. And my father also was critical 
of his design and thought that it wasn't as sensitive to 
proportions and details as it should be. But Scott was 
a very bright guy and an extremely capable person. 
Finally, we had a partnership called Ratcliff, Haymond, 
and Ratcliff, because Scott had been there with my 
father all this length of time, and I came into the 
picture suddenly at the end of World War II, and that 
seemed like an appropriate thing to do. I liked him 
very much, but he didn't do architecture the way I 
wanted to do it. Also, at the time I knew him he was 
contracting rather than expanding; I was going in the 
other direction. 

Mills College Work 


Robert Ratcliff: 

In many architects' lives, there's a three or four year 
period when they seem to do every big thing that they 
ever do. It seems that was the case with your father 
when he was doing the bank and Mills and some of his 
greatest houses, somewhere there between about 1923 and 

There were two periods when he did his major work. One 
was the decade before World War I and one was the decade 
after the World War I, and 99 percent of his work was 
done in those two decades. There was a little 


Riess : 

Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 

depression right after the war, but about 1920 things 
just started to take off. He got that assignment at 
Mills in '23, the assignment at Pacific School of 
Religion about the same time. Then in '25 he did the 
twelve-story building. 

Was he supervising the job at Mills? 

Oh, yes. Scott Haymond and he supervised everything at 
Mills. I went on a few of his supervision trips with 
him, when Mary Morris Hall was being built. I think 
that was 1929, so I was sixteen years old when Mary 
Morris was built. I went on to other trips out there. 
There were earlier things, too. He took over from a 
Maybeck plan. 

Yes, that was interesting to learn that Maybeck had done 
that. Your father made some revisions. 

He pretty well accepted the axis proposal, which was 
suggested in the Maybeck plan, and developed it to a 
greater extent. He used Maybeck' s original cruciform 
road system and incorporated the new facilities and 
buildings proposed by Dr. Reinhardt and the board in 
their ambitious expansion program of the 1920s, all of 
which his office designed. He took the concept that 
they keep the old buildings and adjust the plan to allow 
for that. The plan doesn't, as I see it, really read 
exactly the way it was drawn. But they kept old Mills 
Hall, which was, of course, a huge building, and a 
number of the other buildings were there. They started 
off with a new art building, and that became the big 
focus of the campus. They didn't complete it. They 
just did the first element. 

A Family Country House in Mendocino County. 1925 


Robert Ratcliff: 

A big part of your early life was the house in 
Mendocino. How did that come to pass? 

By 1925 my parents were looking for a place to buy as a 
ranch house or a country home. When he finished the 
American Trust Building, which was the biggest single 
building contract he ever got though, I guess, perhaps 
the Mills College contract might have been, in total, a 



larger contract- -he was feeling very flush and able to 
find four thousand dollars without too much trouble. 

What did it mean to have a country house? 

Robert Ratcliff: Oh, it was another place to go and get away from the 

urban scene, to get back to the earth. They were both 
very much interested in the out-of-doors, you know. 

Riess : 

But the pictures I've seen of Roble Road- -it was the 
country . 

Robert Ratcliff: Not really. It was getting built up. They put in Roble 

Court, and they built on our road. Burt O'Neill built 
next door to us , and that sort of wiped out a wonderful 
underground building that my brother and I had built. 
[laughter] They just felt the need to get into the 
country, somehow. 

[C.R.] At first they spent most of their time 
looking around Half Moon Bay, in the south, and up in 
the Napa Valley area. Then some artists, including my 
Aunt Florence, Ray Boynton, and a few others, went up 
the coast and stayed in a hotel in Gualala. It was 
called the Seaview Hotel at that time. They came back 
with sketches they had made and said they had been to 
the best place in California. They were just surprised 
nobody else had seen it. It was just absolutely a 
marvelous place. They had a showing of all their 
sketches and told of this great place. My parents were 
invited to the show, and they got so excited that the 
next weekend they went to Fort Bragg and drove down the 
coast, arriving in Point Arena on Saturday. 

They stayed at the Point Arena Hotel, which was 
then run by a man named Seymour. Mr. Seymour became 
interested and introduced them to a man who was working 
at the bank and who seemed to know about the properties . 
The next morning, this man took them down the coast to 
show them what was for sale between Point Arena and 
Gualala. As they went down the coast, they discovered 
everything was for sale. 

They came to this place, and they said, well, that 
looked like a pretty good place, let's look in there. 
The fellow said, "Aw, this is no good at all. I mean, 
it's only 381 acres. It's owned by some people named 
Morrison, and you can only run twenty- five head of 
cattle on it. It just isn't worth anything." Well, 


they thought it looked very nice. They went down the 
coast further and looked at other things and came back. 
They said, "Well, this is really the best one you've 
shown us. Let's get out and look at it." 

So they walked up to where the Black Ranch house 
now is, and they were absolutely convinced. They looked 
around, walked up in the woods a little, in the back. 
They were just blown out of their minds. They thought 
it was the greatest. The man said that the Morrison 
family were having trouble. Mr. Morrison had died. 
Mrs. Morrison didn't want the place, and there were some 
sons who were arguing about it. They were going to have 
an auction next Friday, in Ukiah. 

They came back to Berkeley, and the whole idea grew 
and developed, so that on the next Friday they went to 
the auction in Ukiah. My father's lawyer told them that 
at an auction of this kind you had to have the money 
with you, and that it had to be in gold coin. Well, he 
went to the bank and got a sack of gold coins, about 
$4,000. They got in their old Overland automobile, and 
My said that anytime a car got within a hundred yards of 
them, they sped up to maybe thirty- five or forty miles 
an hour, because he was so sure that they were going to 
be robbed. 

Anyway, they got there and started the auction. 
One of the young relatives showed up, so there were two 
of them bidding. This man started off at, I don't know 
what, $1000 or so. My father raised him to $1015. 
Well, the auctioneer just blew his stack, and he said, 
"We're not going to take any small offers like that. 
You've got to make a substantial offer. We won't accept 
anything not substantial." My father said, "Okay, 

Anyway, after they settled down, the thing bid up 
to about $3800. And they got it. Then they presented 
the gold coins, and the auctioneer said, "What are you 
doing with those things? I mean, how do we know they're 
real?" [laughter] So they had to take them to the bank 
and have them verified. 

They got it cleared through the bank, came back to 
Berkeley, and planned the next weekend to take us all 
back to Point Arena, to show us the place. Everything 
was terribly exciting. We drove to Cloverdale and 
stayed at a hotel that was run by Pop McCray. We stayed 


there many times, got to know him well. He was a very 
jovial great fat guy, with a great smile, and a lot of 
jokes and personality. 

We drove on to Point Arena the next day. We went 
down the coast to our place. They thought they knew 
where it was, but we drove back and forth a couple of 
times and then decided to go to McNamee's store. They, 
of course, knew the Morrison place, and we not only 
learned where it was but all about the local history 
from Jimmy McNamee. [end. C.R.] 

Solvent in the Depression 


Robert Ratcliff: 


Robert Ratcliff: 

You mentioned, when I was going out the door last time, 
that your father took over at the Fidelity in 1933. You 
said that he also did well in the stock market. Where 
does that fit in? At what time? 

He was a good businessman, and he made money as an 
architect, which was already kind of an unusual thing. 
He was also conservative in his money, because he had 
grown up in a family that had very little. That's not 
quite true, because some branches of his family were 
very wealthy, but in the English system, younger sons 
didn't inherit very much. His father was a younger son, 
so he didn't come away with a lot. And then, in the 
depression of 1893, they lost a lot of money, so this 
experience had made him very conservative. 

But that was a help during the Depression because 
when the Depression broke he had not invested in a lot 
of stocks and gone out on a limb trying to make money 
that way. He had put his money in the bank and had no 
loans or mortgages to pay on. So when everything came 
apart he had gold coins rather than stock certificates, 
and it made a big difference. 

He had gold coins? 

I mean his money was in the bank rather than in stocks, 
and so the stock market crash really didn't affect him, 
except that it affected his business. It just closed 
architecture down, closed his income and that sort of 
thing down, but his capital was secure. 



[Interviewed by Christopher Ratcliff, December 1987] 
Entering Cal and the Agility Test. 1932 

Robert Ratcliff: 

Evelyn Ratcliff: 
Robert Ratcliff: 

C. Ratcliff: 
Robert Ratcliff: 
C. Ratcliff: 

I probably should have entered college in the fall of 
' 31 , but I had my appendix out . In those days that 
wiped you out for a few weeks, and so I decided to enter 
in January of '32. They gave the boys an agility test 
which was kind of interesting. The women did not have 
to do this-- 

No, they didn't. 

You had to swim a hundred yards , run a hundred yards , 
and go over an obstacle course, which involved climbing 
a wall that was ten feet high. Then you had to 
demonstrate that you could tumble. 

I had done all of these things, but I had never 
tumbled. Then you finished by fighting, by defending 
yourself either in fencing or boxing or wrestling. This 
meant that you had to go into the ring with one of the 
people on the University team. The alternate for this 
was taking a course in one of these subjects. So I took 
the course in boxing, which was a pretty strange and 
interesting experience. 

You took one course in boxing? 


You had to wear a helmet, right? 

Robert Ratcliff : 

No, you didn't wear a helmet. Stan Jones was the boxing 
professor, and he lined us up around this room according 
to weight. First you had to weigh in. I turned out to 
be one of the heaviest guys in the class, because I was 
matched up with the second heaviest fellow. We were 
paired off by weight and lined up around the room. 

This was a one-hour session. Ve did exercises for 
the first fifteen or twenty minutes, and we sparred. 
Stan taught us different positions, or stances. You had 
to stand with your left hand out and your right hand in 
a defensive position. That would be Position One. 
Position Two would be that you would jab with your left 
hand. Position Three would be jab with your right hand, 
and it went on. Then Stan would call these positions by 
number. One, Three, Two, Four - One, Four, Three, Two, 
and so on. 

Finally, toward the middle of the course, we began 
having a three -round match with a partner, and then, 
finally, at the end of all that, we would get down on 
the floor and do pushups until the last man dropped. 
Very often I was the last man. In those days I used to 
think I was very strong, [laughter] By current 
standards, 1 think I'm very weak. 

Entering Architecture, and Taking a Course in Public 

Robert Ratcliff: I entered architecture, and-- 

C. Ratcliff: 
Robert Ratcliff: 

You entered it right off. 

Yes, as a freshman. That's what you did in those days. 
I asked my father if he had to do college over, what 
elective course would he take? He said he would take a 
course in public speaking. So I went down and took a 
course in public speaking, thinking that was probably 
good advice. 

There was a professor named Flaherty who was very 
popular, the head of the department. I applied to get 
into his course but was too late. I got in with a 
fellow named Cretien, who I got to know well. I 
remember the first thing he said, "Okay, you don't know 
me, and I don't know you, so what I am going to ask you 


C. Ratcliff: 

to do is to prepare a five -minute talk on one of the 
following subjects," and he listed several subjects on 
the board. Then I'm going to call on different people, 
and it won't be in alphabetical order. That way I'll 
get a feeling for what you can do." 

So I went home and really worked hard. I had it 
almost memorized. When he called my name I got up, and 
I drew an absolute blank. I couldn't think of a darned 
thing. He kept making suggestions: "Maybe you're 
thinking of this, or you're thinking of that--" The 
more he suggested, the worse it became. 

I went up after the class and told him that I 
practically memorized what I was going to say, and then 
I got absolutely frightened to death." He said, "Well, 
that's happened before. Don't worry about it. I'll 
call on you again. You prepared it once, you know the 
subject, just come and talk about it, and you probably 
won't have any trouble." Well, it happened. I never 
really had a serious problem of stage fright again. I 
learned the most valuable lesson in that course in the 
first week. 

Did your father encourage or discourage you from going 
into architecture? 

Robert Ratcliff: At first he encouraged me to look at all the options. 

C. Ratcliff: 

Robert Ratcliff: 

What did he tell you? 

Well, he told me that architecture wasn't the easiest 
way to make money. There were quicker and easier ways 
of making money. However, we went for walks in the 
hills, and we got to talk about it. He said, really, 
the reason he chose it was because he really didn't want 
to be a doctor and work on people who were in trouble. 
He didn't want to be a lawyer and work on people who had 
those kinds of problems. An architect really is working 
on new projects with people all the time, and it's a 
great, creative field. He felt that that was a more 
satisfactory way to spend your life and also that it was 
complicated and very demanding, which he felt was 
important. I liked what I heard and decided to go that 

I entered UC Berkeley just after John Galen Howard 
had died. Warren Perry had become chairman of the 
department, and John Galen Howard's secretary, Bessie 
Sprague, was still the boss. She told all the 


professors where to get on and get off. She knew my 
father because he had worked for John Galen Howard. She 
treated me as though I was one of her kids. I think she 
treated everybody that way. She was really a very 
demanding and bossy person but basically good-hearted 
and nice . 

Evelvn Paine. Architecture Student 

C. Ratcliff: 
Evelyn Ratcliff: 
C. Ratcliff: 
Evelyn Ratcliff: 
C. Ratcliff: 

Evelyn Ratcliff: 
C. Ratcliff: 

Evelyn Ratcliff: 

C. Ratcliff: 
Evelyn Ratcliff: 

C. Ratcliff: 

Evelyn Ratcliff: 

[to Evelyn] Did you go right into architecture? 

Yes. Yes, I did. 

Why did you choose architecture? 

Well, I thought it looked interesting. 

Did your father have any influence on you about that? 
[Evelyn's father, Robert Paine, was a sculptor.] 

No, he never discussed college with me. 

Well, how did you pick architecture out of all- -why 
didn't you pick math? [Evelyn's mother was a 
mathematician. ] 

Oh, I wasn't that good in math, to major in math. I was 
fair. I wasn't really good at it. I could do it when 
someone showed me how. [laughter] That's about my math 

Where did your exposure to architecture come from? 

Well, I don't really know. I really don't know what 
first put the idea in my head. I know I discussed it 
with Mr. Steilberg, and he discouraged me. He said, 
"It's very strenuous and a strenuous major." He didn't 
think I was strong enough to do it. 

It was a profession that, essentially, men were in. 
Very few women were in it. Were you aware of Julia 
Morgan at the time? 

Oh, yes. In fact, her nephew, Morgan North, went to the 
John Dewey School, and I knew him. They lived right 
down on Prospect Street. 


C. Ratcliff: 
Evelyn Ratcliff: 

C. Ratcliff: 
Evelyn Ratcliff: 

Robert Ratcliff: 

So did that have any influence? 

No, I don't think it did. I don't really know exactly 
where I got the idea. 

Was there any doubt? I mean, you signed up in 
architecture the first semester? 

Yes. I Just signed up. The curriculum was laid out for 
four years. You had about two electives, that was all. 
You had to choose, some time before you were a junior, 
you had to take something in the social sciences or 
something. I took Economics 1A-B to satisfy that 
requirement. What else was there? 

I took philosophy with George Adams, John Adams's 
father. He turned out to be a fantastic person and a 
very interesting person. His whole family was exciting. 

Coursework in Architecture and Art 

Evelyn Ratcliff: 

Robert Ratcliff: 

Evelyn Ratcliff: 
Robert Ratcliff: 

Evelyn Ratcliff: 

[talking about studies] One course we took in 
architecture was with Aram Torossian. He was Armenian, 
and he spoke with an accent. I think probably he had 
left Armenia in the time when so many Armenians left, 
when the Turks were on the rampage. That first course, 
we went out and measured a thing on the campus . Then we 
had to do a measured drawing of it in ink. That was 
what it was. 

I remember going down to Hilgard Hall and measuring the 
front entrance and making an ink drawing of that doorway 
and the balcony above it. 

And then you had to do the details. 

1 think you [Evelyn] were way ahead of me when you got 
into this because you had been at [the College of] Arts 
and Crafts. 

Well, I hadn't done anything like that, though. The 
thing that 1 did at Arts and Crafts that was helpful was 
that I had watercolor, and I had life drawing. Later, I 
didn't have to take life drawing over again. That was 
helpful to my career. Also, as a freshman I took 
Japanese art, taught by Perham Nahl , who was the son of 


C. Ratcliff: 
Evelyn Ratcliff: 

Robert Ratcliff: 
Evelyn Ratcliff: 

Robert Ratcliff: 

[Charles Christian] Nahl, a painter of early California, 
whose paintings are down at the Oakland Museum. 

Was that because your mother was interested in Asian 
things? That exposure? 

I think everyone living here in California was somewhat 
exposed to Oriental art, perhaps more than other parts 
of the country. 

Vas Nahl the same guy who gave anatomy? 

Yes , and I took the art anatomy course , but then I was 
excused from doing the life drawing. 

Oh, I took life drawing from Nahl. He was a fairly old 
fellow. He got killed in an automobile accident while 
we were in college. He gave this course, over in the 
theater on the second floor at the south end of South 
Hall. It was a very steep little theater, so you looked 
down on your professor, standing on a stage. 

He had a blackboard behind him, and he was the most 
fantastic draftsman you just ever saw. He would draw a 
child. Then he'd say, "Now this child is five years 
old. When the child gets to be seven years old, it 
looks like this... When it gets to be ten years old, it 
looks like this... When it gets to be twenty years old, 
it looks like this... When it gets to be thirty years 
old, it looks like this..." clear on through life, on 
the same drawing, just changing the muscle formations. 
You just could hardly believe it, it was so accurate, 
and so absolutely real. 

In this course, we had to learn all the names of 
all the muscles and bones and everything in the body. 
It was an interesting course. People used to say, 
"Well, why would an architect need to know about that?" 
Well, probably an architect really doesn't have to know 
about that, but it was a related field, and I tell you, 
when it comes to observing and drawing, it made a big 
difference to me. That was one of the courses I really 
remember very well. 

The second major, basic, course in the curriculum 
was a course with Stafford Jory on the classic orders. 

Evelyn Ratcliff: We had that as sophomores, yes. 


Robert Ratcliff: 
Evelyn Ratcliff: 
Robert Ratcliff: 

Evelyn Ratcliff: 

Robert Ratcliff: 

Didn't you [Evelyn] take art with [Chiura] Obata? 
Yes, I did. It was required. Art 2A-B. 


He was wonderful. We used to have meetings and invite 
different people over to talk to members of our 
architecture class. We invited him, I remember, to talk 
to us and to demonstrate. He brought over his rice 
paper and all his tools, and he stood up in front of us 
and told us that you can't draw anything that you don't 
know, really know. He told us about how as an artist in 
Japan what you had to do was to go out and really study 
something to the point where you absolutely knew 
everything about it. 

A flower, you see, or an animal. 
and draw it. 

And then you'd go in 

Yes. Once you got to the point where you really 
understood how that flower was made, and all its detail, 
then you were able to go ahead and draw it. So then he 
would demonstrate. It was just absolutely fabulous. He 
did fish and animals and flowers, all that kind of 

Memories of Bennv Bufano 

Evelyn Ratcliff: 

[referring to a family memoir taped with C. Ratcliff] 
Earlier when I was talking about my childhood I left out 
Benny Bufano completely. Benny came out to California 
because when my father was out working at the 1915 fair 
he wrote to him and suggested that there was work for 
him out here. And I should tell how my father came out 
to work at the fair. That was because Sterling Calder, 
Peggy [Calder] Hayes's father, was in charge of all the 
sculpture for the fair, and he knew my father and 
invited him out. I think my father had probably 
enlarged pieces for him [Sterling Calder] in New York. 
That's very likely true. 

My father had met Benny Bufano first when he 
[Bufano] was a boy of about eleven years old. He lived 
near where my father had his studio in New York. He was 
interested in what was going on in the studio, and he 
came around. My father said he was a skillful modeler 
just right from the time he was a boy. Very skillful. 


It just came naturally to him. Benny lived with us at 
the time I was born. He was living with us over on 
Virginia Street, and he did a head of me when I was 
three weeks old. 

After we moved up to Panoramic Way, Benny rented 
the house that the [Frederick] Benses have lived in for 
so many years. That's where he lived with his wife, and 
their baby, who was born a little later. We used to go 
--one of my pleasurable memories of childhood- -into 
Chinatown with Benny to the Republic Cafe, which is in 
the location of where Charlie Kan's restaurant is now. 
We would quite often go over there on a Sunday. We'd go 
on the ferryboat. I was pretty small, but I remember it 
very well. Benny became knowledgeable about Chinese 
things. He spent a good deal of time in China during 
the period of Sun Yat Sen's ascendancy. 

Evelyn and Bob. Meeting and Dating 

C. Ratcliff: 
Evelyn Ratcliff: 

Robert Ratcliff: 

C. Ratcliff: 
Evelyn Ratcliff: 
Robert Ratcliff: 

Had you met each other by then? 

Well, yes. We weren't in the same class, because Bob 
had started before me, but we ended up in the same class 
eventually as juniors. In Junior Design, we got in the 
same class. 

After a few semesters in college I realized that the 
courses in this curriculum were designed for people who 
entered in the fall, and not designed for somebody who 
entered in the middle of the year, in the wintertime. 
So it really wasn't very convenient. I wasn't getting 
as much as I would have gotten, had I been on the 
regular schedule. So I took six months off taking other 
elective courses, not in the basic architectural 
curriculum, and got back into the regular schedule. I 
dropped back six months in terms of the regular 
curriculum. At that point, we were in the same class. 

A fateful moment. 
Yes, a fateful moment. 

Yes, that's when Mike Goodman came and said that he 
introduced us . 


Evelyn Ratcliff : 

C. Ratcliff: 
Evelyn Ratcliff: 

C. Ratcliff: 
Evelyn Ratcliff: 

Robert Ratcliff: 
Evelyn Ratcliff: 

Robert Ratcliff: 

Evelyn Ratcliff: 

Yes, that's right. He liked to say he introduced us. 
But we, of course, had known each other somewhat. In 
fact, I remember that you [Robert] waterbagged me once. 
I was very mad because it just messed up my hair, and I 
was going to something. I was mad. I was mad, I was. 
I remember telling the Eliels, because I'd see the 
Eliels from time to time, telling them. They asked me 
if I knew you now that I was in the architecture 
department. I said, "Yes, I do, but somehow we just 
don't seem to get along very well." [laughter] That was 
funny. I remember that very well. 

So in the junior year you ended up in the same class. 
Did you start to date at that point? 

Well, I think the first time you [Robert] asked me out, 
I think that was when I was a high sophomore. You 
invited me to a dance at your fraternity. That's the 
first time that I went out with him. But by fall we 
really started going out a lot. That summer I had my 
appendix out, when you went to Waddington. I remember 
your calling me. Could I have had a telephone in the 
hospital? Maybe I did. Anyway, those two things came 
right together: that you went to Waddington, and I had 
my appendix out. That's really when we started. By the 
time we were juniors, we were beginning to go out quite 
a bit. 

Where did you go? 

Well, we went to movies, and we went to house dances at 
the fraternity. 

We went for walks, as a matter of fact, too. 

We went for walks. That's what we did mostly. We went 
in beautiful places, for instance to Point Isabel where 
the Co-op warehouse is- -I think they've sold it to the 
post office sorting station- -down there on the 
waterfront. There was a little point that stuck out 
there, and there was an old farmhouse on it. There were 
a few trees, kind of windblown trees, and some rocks- -a 
beautiful little spot. 

They've taken all the natural features away now. 
Everything out there now is manmade. 

Recently we've discovered this lovely little area, China 
Camp State Park, as you leave San Rafael. The exit to 


Robert Ratcliff: 

Evelyn Ratcliff: 

Robert Ratcliff: 

Evelyn Ratcliff: 

C. Ratcliff: 
Robert Ratcliff: 

the county building is the same one as the exit to the 
China Camp State Park. When you go over there, you get 
onto the edge of the bay- -that's the east side- -and it's 
all natural looking, the way Point Isabel used to look. 
A beautiful, beautiful place. We have stopped there 
twice now, and we recommend it highly because it's an 
unspoiled piece of terrain, the way it used to look. 
There still is a shrimping operation going on there. 
Small. Used to be a big shrimping operation. Now, I'm 
kind of off the subject. 

We walked up in the Berkeley hills. We walked on 
that nice- -I think they call it Huckleberry Trail now. 
You go from Skyline Boulevard. It used to be a lovely 

Frequently Cliff Holser walked with us. Cliff Holser 
was in the same class. He was a good friend. We did a 
lot of things together. Gryff Partridge was in the 
class behind me. 

He started out in my class, I think, 

Somehow, he got 

Jack Wagstaff was in the class ahead. He was another 
close friend and really good guy. He's got some kids 
now that are spectacular. He's got about five or six 

Five sons. For a while I dated Jack Wagstaff, when I 
was about second-year in college. That went on for a 

[to Robert] Did you date in high school? 

Not much. I wasn't as gregarious as my brother Pete 
was. He went out every opportunity he got, and he made 
a lot of lady friends. I didn't really do that very 
much. I did go out, however, a few times in high 
school. I was kind of bashful about it. I just didn't 
feel comfortable going out and dancing and learning how 
to dance . To me , that was not quite the way I wanted to 
behave. Somehow or other, it took me a little while to 
get into the mood of doing it, so I didn't go out a 
great deal. 

In college, I didn't really date many other people 
except Evelyn. I went out once or twice with a gal 
named Lucretia Van Horn, whose mother was an artist 


C. Ratcliff: 
Evelyn Ratcliff: 
Robert Ratcliff: 

friend of Aunt Florence's and whose father was Colonel 
[R.O.] Van Horn, the guy who ran the ROTC program at the 


ROTC. You [Robert] had an experience with ROTC. 

ROTC, yes. I didn't distinguish myself in ROTC, either. 
It was a required subject. They have these damn 
inspections, and if your tie wasn't exactly straight 
you'd get a demerit, and if your hat wasn't on right, 
you might get an F for the day. I mean, it seemed 
ridiculous. Then you go out and march around the field. 
I rose to the level of private in the rear rank, and I 
never got beyond. 

The Harlev-Davidson 

Robert Ratcliff: 

Evelyn Ratcliff: 

Robert Ratcliff: 

When I started college I needed transportation, and I 
went down and bought a motorcycle in Oakland, the 
biggest Harley-Davidson they made in 1926. It was an 
early model Harley-Davidson with these small tires. 
After the model I had, the tires got much larger, and 
the machines got more streamlined. This had a 
rectangular gas tank, and the later models had rounded 
gas tanks. They were a little fancier looking. This 
was a fine machine, and I drove it for at least three 
years, almost all the time I was in college. 

You bought it when you were a freshman, I think, 
we were dating, you had gotten rid of it. 


I didn't keep it after I finally wound up underneath an 
automobile. I decided that that's as close as I wanted 
to come. I was coming down Tunnel, and right around the 
corner the street was being repaired on Domingo. The 
way they repaired streets in those days was they sprayed 
tar on them, and then they spread gravel on top of the 
tar. Well, they had just gotten to the point where they 
had got the tar sprayed out there and were beginning to 
put the gravel on it when I came around the corner. 
There were cars parked on both sides of the street. 

This repair was being done on the side that I was 
on, but there was an ice cream truck double-parked on 


the other side of the street. Only one lane was 
available, but there was a car coming through on my 
lane. The brakes hit this loose gravel, and the thing 
skidded right out from under me and bounced off the 
front of this car, which wasn't going very quickly. As 
a matter of fact, the car was almost stopped. The 
driver was an elderly lady who practically passed out 
when this happened. I went feet first right underneath 
the car, and I ended up looking at the oil pan. I 
grabbed the bumper and pulled myself back out. The only 
thing I damaged was my pants. The motorcycle wasn't 

Anyway, I thought that that was about as close as I 
wanted to come. I bought the motorcycle for thirty- 
five dollars three years before. I never did anything 
but put gasoline and oil into it. Never had a repair. 
I sold it for thirty- five dollars, so I had free 
transportation for three years, and I still had my life. 
It was a hairy thing to drive in the wintertime. I 
remember going around that corner at Founder's Rock and 
Hearst Avenue. That was a very, very slick corner. 
Several times the darned thing just wouldn't hold on the 
slope, and it would just slip out. My tires were pretty 
smooth, and this was a very smooth piece of asphalt. I 
used to just climb up on the seat when it went out, and 
then I'd pick it up and go on. [laughs] 

Meeting the Families 

C. Ratcliff: 

Evelyn Ratcliff: 
Robert Ratcliff: 

C. Ratcliff: 
Robert Ratcliff: 

C. Ratcliff: 

How did you deal with the rest of your families as you 
were getting together? 

Well, we never had any opposition from our families. 

Oh, I thought I was received quite well by Evelyn's 
mother. I liked her. She was a wonderful woman. 

You saw her quite a bit. 

Yeah. Evelyn didn't want me to come to her house, 
because she was afraid I'd have to go to the bathroom, 
and the bathroom had been invented by her father, 

What was wrong with the bathroom? 


Evelyn Ratcliff : 
Robert Ratcliff: 

Evelyn Ratcliff: 
Robert Ratcliff: 

Evelyn Ratcliff: 

Robert Ratcliff: 

Evelyn Ratcliff: 
Robert Ratcliff: 

Evelyn Ratcliff: 

Well, he made it. I found it sort of embarrassing. I 
did find that embarrassing. 

It was up on the second floor of the building, and there 
was only one bathroom in their house. This toilet was 
mounted on a platform. He had gotten himself an old 
toilet bowl, and then he had rigged up a system of pipes 
that went up through the roof. He built himself a 
wooden tank on the roof, and there was a chain that came 
down from this through the roof. 

Well, it's sort of like the ones you went into in 
Europe . 

It was great. When you'd pull the chain, you could hear 
the water coming. Boy, when it hit the toilet, it was 
going fast. It was a very positive gesture! [laughing] 

Well, now, as a little footnote to that, my father had 
an awfully nice brother. He was one of nine children, 
but the only one I ever knew was Uncle Will. Uncle Will 
lived here in Berkeley and died when I was about 
sixteen. He used to call my father, whose name was 
Robert, Rob. "Well, Rob, if it was the first one that 
had ever been made, it would be pretty darned good." 
[ laughter] 

We used to sit in front of the little fireplace in the 
living room. It was a very small fireplace. It 
actually worked fairly well. I think it was the only 
heat in the house, and we would sit on these bamboo or 
rattan chairs on a kind of a love seat, or two-person 
type seat. It had pillows and rugs. Mrs. Paine 
collected rugs. That house was just like some old 
Armenian rug man's house with rugs stacked up on each 
other, two layers of rugs on everything. And all these 
seats had rugs on them. I remember that. The room had 
very few lights in it, if any. I'm not sure if it had 
any permanent fixtures. 

Well, there was one hanging over the fireplace. 

Was there a permanent fixture there? I've forgotten. I 
thought it was movable. 

I lived so close to school that I used to walk back and 
forth to the architecture building by myself, even at 
night. Now, I wouldn't want any of my children to do 
that. That's a little footnote we might put in, that 


Robert Ratcliff: 
Evelyn Ratcliff: 

C. Ratcliff: 
Evelyn Ratcliff: 

Robert Ratcliff: 
Evelyn Ratcliff: 

C. Ratcliff: 

Robert Ratcliff: 
C. Ratcliff: 
Robert Ratcliff: 
Evelyn Ratcliff: 

C. Ratcliff: 
Evelyn Ratcliff: 

Berkeley used to be a very safe place. There were never 
murders. We didn't even lock the doors. 

I don't think you could lock the doors. 

Well, you could, I think, but it was a very flimsy lock. 
It was a lock like we have on the door at the ranch, one 
where you push the little thing up and pull. 

A bolt. 

No, not a bolt, just a little thing that turns. You 
turn it back and push a little thing Op to keep it from 
turning. But it was very safe around here. There 
weren't crimes of violence. There weren't holdups, 
muggings, all that. Very rare that anything would 

Year after year, no one was murdered, nobody was killed 
in Berkeley. 

Well, I don't ever remember a murder in Berkeley as a 
child. It's amazing how that whole side of our culture 
came. People didn't carry guns. Nothing like that. 
Nothing like drugs, none of that. 

Well, tell me, how did you get over to My and Pop's? 
Did you guys walk over after school? 

Most was walking. 

You didn't ride bicycles. 

I skated a lot. 

Your mother loaned you her car quite often. I think 
you'd come over at night to work. He'd [Robert] have 
that Chevy that belonged to your mother. 

So you both, really, lived at home rather than with your 
fraternity friends? 

Neither of us ever lived in the house. I never lived in 
my sorority. Bob never lived in his fraternity. We 
both lived at home the whole time. People did in those 
days. There wasn't all this having apartments and all 


The "Clubby" Department of the Earlv 1930s 

Evelyn Ratcliff : 

C. Ratcliff: 
Evelyn Ratcliff: 

Robert Ratcliff: 

Evelyn Ratcliff: 

Life in the architecture department in those days was 
very chummy and clubby and fun. We had a graduating 
class of eleven. There were about fifty- seven in my 
Arch 1 class. A lot of people got the idea they would 
like to major in architecture. Then they started it and 
decided it wasn't for them. So there was a big dropout 

That's still true, about the same dropoff. 

We were over there, morning, noon, and night. There was 
a lot of foolishness going on, and it was really a 
very- -I think all of us who went through that remember 
it with sort of nostalgia, in a way, because it was like 
a little school. 

We used to work at night, and there was an apartment 
house right across the street. Every so often we'd see 
some romance going on in the windows of this apartment 
house, and I can remember turning the lights out and 
getting everybody up against the windows, and opening 
the windows, and you'd see some guy kissing some gal. 

It was silhouetted against the window, 
so well. 

I remember that 

Robert Ratcliff: 

Evelyn Ratcliff: 
Robert Ratcliff: 

Evelyn Ratcliff: 

And we'd all go, "One, two, three," and just yell, "Ro 
mance!" Then these people would pull away and-- 

And then call the cops sometimes, because of noise. 

They'd call the cops on us. We made too much noise. 
They called the cops on us a few times for waterbagging 
people on Hearst, which was probably a good thing. The 
watercolor roomit was second floor, over the junior 
room- -that was a good place to throw waterbags from. I 
can remember when Torossian was having a class picture 
made. They were all lined up, and he's got this 
photographer out in front. We got up in the watercolor 
room, and we waterbagged these guys as they were doing 
their picture. 

Well, also, we had modeling up there. "Mud," they 
called it. We always called the modeling class "Mud." 
We had plasticene, modeling clay. People would take 


Robert Ratcliff: 
Evelyn Ratcliff: 
C. Ratcliff: 
Robert Ratcliff: 
Evelyn Ratcliff: 

Robert Ratcliff: 
Evelyn Ratcliff: 

Robert Ratcliff: 

little pellets and throw it out the window. That was 
another verboten thing. 

We studied with old man [Earle] Cummings. 

He was a sculptor, a friend of my father's. 

Who were your other professors? You had Goodman. 

Goodman just came a few years before we got there. 

Yes, he hadn't been there very long. He was a graduate 
of the department. We had Aram Torossian and Ray Jeans. 
And Warren Perry. We had two professors whose initials 
were W.C. 

"Water-Closet" W.C. Perry and "Water-Closet" W.C. Hays. 

Yes, the W.C. initials. Very appropriate, we always 
felt, for an architecture professor. 

Old Water-Closet Hays had dated my mother when she was a 
young gal. Actually, he was quite a bit older. He was 
older than Pop, I think. She said, "When he first came 
and dated me, I told him that it couldn't be a serious 
thing," so he went on and dated two of her sisters. 
They both turned him down. He finally found a gal. 
[End C. Ratcliff interview] 


Robert Ratcliff: 

A Member of the Order of the Golden Bear 
[Interview 3: May 10, 1989 ]##* 

How is it that you became a member of the Golden Bear 

Oh, it was a surprise to me. I didn't really know what 
the organization was. It used to be a secret 
organization. It isn't any longer. It's made up of 
students and administrators and faculty members who meet 
once a week to discuss the University. The concept is 
that it's a forum where people discuss issues that are 
important to the University. 

Hereafter, only Riess and Robert Ratcliff are present in the 


One day I was walking across the campus, and a friend of 
mine came up to me and put his hand on my shoulder. He said, 
"You are called to the Order of the Golden Bear." And I said, 
"Dana [Raymond], what are you talking about?!" He wouldn't say 
more, but that I should come to 'this meeting. So I came to the 
meeting, and I was greeted by Hob [Harley] Stevens, class of 
'22. I was so surprised that he was there. I said, "What the 
Sam Hill are you doing here?" Then I began to discover that I 
knew almost everybody in the place. 

It was really an exciting experience. The meetings 
occurred every week. Sproul and Deutsch attended every 
meeting, with other campus VIPs. It was just an exciting group 
of people. We discussed the real issues on campus and in 

Riess: Presumably, Sproul and Deutsch gleaned the sense of the 

Ratcliff: They took part in the conversations, and they answered 

questions. There was a fellow there named Stanley Moore, a 
classmate of mine, who was very antagonistic toward the 
administration. He was terribly critical of Sproul. I mean, 
he was just really wild. He was a kind of an activist, in a 
sense. Very bright guy, extremely articulate and a wonderful 
debater, but he did things that really embarrassed me and 
embarrassed a lot of the other people in the group in the way 
he attacked Sproul. 

Riess: Because they were not gentlemanly? 

Ratcliff: Well, I didn't think they were fair or accurate, and I didn't 
feel that they were appropriate. It hurt Sproul- -one of the 
few things that I've ever seen happen to him that made him very 
unhappy . 

Riess: Was it a situation where he would defend himself- -Sproul? 

Ratcliff: Oh, yes, Sproul defended himself. Everybody else, practically, 
defended Sproul, too. 

Riess: What were the issues? 

Ratcliff: Oh, I can't really remember. They had to do with the way he 
was administrating the University, the priorities he had, and 
what were his real objectives. Things of that kind. 

I guess I shouldn't really have mentioned this with Moore. 
It's really almost the only negative thing that happened in 


that whole time I was involved. And one of the greatest things 
was really getting to know some of these people like Deutsch 
and Sproul. 

Riess: Did you represent some collective group? 

Ratcliff: I don't think I felt that I did represent any group, although I 
was chairman of the student architectural association at that 
time. I don't think they felt that they were a political group 
at all, that they had any real concern about what was going on 
in Sacramento or anything of the kind, or what the University 
might be thinking about or doing. The architects, like 
neighborhood associations, had a little association, and we 
talked about our own problems . 

Attemotine to Chanee the Architecture Department Curriculum 

Ratcliff: But what happened was, it gave me an opportunity to talk to 
Deutsch and to Sproul about what concerned me over in the 
architecture department, which I might not otherwise have felt 
so free to do. 

Riess: Would you talk in Golden Bear about that? 

Ratcliff: No, I didn't bring it up in the Order, because I didn't feel it 
was something that they would be concerned about. 

The principal thing that I was concerned about was that 
the architectural school was lagging behind the rest of the 
world in recognizing that there had been some basic changes in 
the outlook of people toward modern architecture, what the next 
generation really had to offer. The curriculum was tied to the 
Beaux Arts system. Practically the entire faculty had studied 
under the old Beaux Arts rules and in the Beaux Arts system, 
and they were not focused on modern architecture at all. 

I can remember being very frustrated because on the 
outside we heard and read about Gropius and Breuer and 
Corbusier and Frank Lloyd Wright. And all these people were 
talking about contemporary architecture. Whereas on the inside 
the guys we were studying with were not. When we were seniors 
Warren Perry gave us a project: "Design a palace in the manner 
of Peruzzi." Peruzzi was a contemporary of Michelangelo! This 
was at the same time that the Bauhaus was going, Mies van der 
Rohe! All these people were doing things in what I thought was 
a very exciting area. We weren't exposed to this at all. And 


it wasn't just Warren Perry, it was the whole department. 
Stafford Jory, all these guys had grown up in the Beaux Arts. 
One of the few people that hadn't was Mike Goodman, and Mike 
was a new member of the faculty. He made a difference, too. 
That was good, because it brought a different light into the 

Howard Moise had come from New York as a full professor to 
fill the vacancy that John Galen Howard had left when he died. 
When he came, he gave his inaugural address to us and said he 
thought that the reason that he'd been asked to come was 
because he felt he had distinguished himself as an exponent of 
Gothic architecture. He had been in charge of details and 
design of St. John the Divine in New York, a Gothic building. 
That was okay, except that wasn't the only place where our 
interests were focused. 

Our undergraduate time was focused a great deal on 
architectural history. I've come to feel that that was a 
valuable experience as I've gotten older, and as I've been to 
Europe and seen things I understood and really knew a lot 
about. One of the questions in the state examination when I 
took it was, "Name five architects who worked on the Louvre. 
Tell what they did and compare their results." Now think about 
that as being an important thing for an architect to know! A 
big change has taken place in where we're looking. I knew the 
answer to that question then, but I'll bet you couldn't find 
anybody who would know that coming out of school today. Well, 
that was one part of it. I'm sort of diverting a little bit. 

Another thing that I felt was frustrating was that we took 
engineering in one place and architecture in another, and we 
never had a project which involved both engineering and 
architecture. By one definition, "architectural design is 
beautiful engineering," and yet we never found out whether we 
would find a million pound stress in a house or a multi- story 
building. We never really approached a project from the point 
of view of a beautifully-engineered structure, as you would a 
bridge. We could at least have given some thought to this. 

I went to Warren Perry and told him that a number of us 
felt the need to study how to integrate engineering and 
architectural design. We thought that the subject ought to be 
discussed and hoped that someday classes would be organized so 
this kind of thing would be addressed. Warren Perry said that 
that was an interesting idea, and he was pleased that we were 
thinking about things and that they would take it under 


Then I went and talked to Deutsch about it and said, "What 
do we do about something like this? We students think 
something ought to change." Deutsch said, "You know, this is a 
matter that must come from the faculty. It can't come from the 
students. The faculty are the ones that organize the program 
and set all these standards." 

Then in my naive way- -I'm sort of embarrassed, now, to 
think back over it- -I thought I was in a blind alley. There 
was an architectural alumni association, and Steilberg was a 
member. So I went to Steilberg. I knew that he was both an 
engineer and an architect, so that I thought he'd be receptive 
to the kind of idea. He was all for it, he thought that was 
just great, so he wrote a letter to the University urging them 
to change the curriculum. Well, it didn't change until after I 
graduated, but it's changed now. 

Stiles Hall, and Campus Politics 





Were you at Stiles Hall in that same period? 
figure in things? 

How did that 



I didn't do much in Stiles Hall when I was an undergraduate. I 
got involved in Stiles Hall deeply right after I graduated, but 
not very much during the time I was an undergraduate. 


Well, I got on the advisory board and was there for a long 
time. I was introduced to it by Bill Davis, who was in Stiles 
Hall and also in the Golden Bear. Bill Davis was one of the 
anchormen in the Golden Bear. He was a tremendous person, 
assistant to Harry Kingman at Stiles. Those two guys got me 
involved. Bill [William F. ) Shepard was another, but he came 
along later. 

Did you have the feeling when you were in Stiles Hall that you 
were in a socially-conscious group, the leading liberal edge? 

Yes, very much so. Stiles was trying to pick up where the 
University left off. The University had some rigid rules about 
what could happen on campus and what could not happen. That 
created a certain amount of tension among people who felt that 
it should be more liberal, that it should be a place where an 
open democratic attitude existed, where people had an 
opportunity to speak about anything, and anybody could speak. 
That wasn't the case then, and that's where Stiles Hall picked 
up and became a "Hyde Park corner," where you could do 


anything. It functioned as a student refuge. If you could 
prove you were a student or a member of a student organization, 
you could hold a meeting there on any subject. 

Riess: In this period, how would you describe yourself politically? 

Ratcliff: Veil, I was developing away from a Republican background, which 
caused a little strife at home. 

Riess: You were becoming a Democrat? 

Ratcliff: Yes. However, I don't feel that I was really focused on party 
politics in that sense. I never felt completely comfortable 
being sort of wedded to one party or the other. At that time, 
I was a liberal, and I guess I've always been classed as a 
liberal. However, today I think I'd be seen as a conservative. 
I was interested in knowing about communism. I thought it was 
something that we ought to know about. We used to have 
conversations about Karl Marx. I was never convinced that his 
ideas would work. On the other hand, Lenin had some ideas that 
I thought were pretty good. I still do. 

Riess: When were you reading Marx and Lenin? 

Ratcliff: Oh, when I was a sophomore or a junior. This was a subject a 
lot of people talked about. It wasn't verboten, really. 

Riess: In your fraternity, for instance, they might have even talked 
about it? 

Ratcliff: Generally, our fraternity didn't talk about it. I was an Alpha 
Delt. A few people in there, Johnny Landon and others, who had 
questioning minds and were very interesting people, they did. 

European Tour and Architectural Influences 



Can I fast forward a bit? 

When you graduated, you went to 

I tell you what happened. I was at dinner with Harley Stevens 
in San Francisco. We talked about different things, and I told 
him of my interest in going to Europe. He was one of the vice- 
presidents of Standard Oil. He had risen like a giant, 
practically, in Standard Oil. He was really a bright guy, and 
very articulate. He began telling me what I ought to do when I 
went to Europe, and to tell me that he had a friend named 
Roland Riggs who was going to go over to Europe, who was about 
as knowledgeable as anybody could be about Europe. He 


introduced me to this man, who was quite a bit older than I 
was. He was a lieutenant commander in the navy. 

My parents had said that they would sponsor the trip, 
which, of course, was a wonderful thing. As I told you before, 
I'm almost embarrassed by the fact that I could practically rub 
my little ball and get anything I wanted. They were, 
fortunately, able to afford it and were interested and wanted 
to do it. Anyway, the long and the short of it is that I 
agreed, and Roland Riggs and I decided to go to Europe. 

Riess: He was just taking a period of time off? 

Ratcliff: He had taken many trips before. He was retired, and this was a 
thing he was interested in doing. He must have been close to 
the age of my parents. He was a much older person. 

Riess: Did he come over and meet your parents, and all of that? 

Ratcliff: Oh, yeah, we had met, and we talked all about it. I then took 
a train and went across the country and met him in New York. 

Riess : New York was new for you? 

Ratcliff: It was the first time I had been out of California. I was a 

novice when it came to traveling. It was really fun to see New 


Riess: While in New York, did you sketch? 

Ratcliff: No, I didn't. I didn't really spend nearly enough time there. 
I went up in the Empire State Building, which was the big, 
fancy building at that point. I went to the Metropolitan 
Museum and walked around the park and went down to Wall Street 
and just did a few of the things tourists do. 

Riess: Had you conceived this trip as the architect's grand tour? 

Ratcliff: My principal interest was seeing the architecture, but I didn't 
conceive of it as a study trip. My father had considered it as 
a study trip when he went over. But I'll tell you, with an 
architectural history background it becomes a study trip. 
That's about all I really did, almost, on the whole trip, is 
look at buildings in the different areas we went to. 

We first went to Gibraltar and then went up to Seville. 
The revolution started while we were there, and they kicked us 
out. We had to go back to Gibraltar and wait for the next 
boat, the Conte di Savoia, to go to Italy. But we did spend 
time in Seville and Cordoba and Granada, which was very 


memorable and really quite exciting. Those old buildings are 
just marvelous. 

Riess: What were the strongest impressions that you got? Maybe they 
weren't architectural? 

Ratcliff: Many of them weren't, but many buildings left tremendously 
strong impressions. We went by bus through southern Spain, 
through the various different little communities. It was 
exciting to get into these tiny towns. The bus almost didn't 
fit in the streets, they were so narrow. But these wonderful 
little houses, and the people--. 

Riess: It wasn't a tourist bus, was it? 

Ratcliff: No, it had chickens in the back, and it was a regular commuting 
bus. That was a very exciting thing. 

When we got to Naples I did the tourist things, climbed 
Mount Vesuvius, went to the Amalfi Drive, went swimming in the 
Blue Grotto, and did a few things like that which I remember 
very well and enjoyed. Then we went to Rome- -I'm going to 
skip, because we don't want to spend a lot of time on this-- 
spent about ten days in Rome, which was one of the most 
exciting parts of the whole trip, because I knew a lot of the 
buildings. I had drawn them for Stafford Jory as an 
undergraduate. We had studied with Bill [William C.] Hays and 
gone through all the buildings of significance in Rome. It was 
terribly exciting to see them. We saw Mussolini and heard him 
give a big speech at Palazzo Venezia. Evelyn's father had 
enlarged all the sculpture on the Victor Emanuel Monument which 
I was very interested in seeing. 

And then, of course, ancient Roman ruins--! don't know why 
it is that these old, broken monuments have such an enormous 
attraction. They're beautiful things. So those made a deep 
impression. We went up through the hill towns to Venice, down 
to Dubrovnik on a boat. And then we went up into Germany: 
Oberammergau, Garmisch, climbed the Zugspitz, and went to 
Neuschwanstein and all these great old Bavarian castles. 

Riess: What was Roland Rigg's role? Was he a very good guide? 

Ratcliff: He was a good guide. He wanted to go and refresh his memory in 
these places and meet friends. He had a lot of friends. This 
was right when Hitler was doing things in Germany in a pretty 
serious way, and they had already had the disturbances in 
Munich, and there were already monuments where people had been 
killed. You had to give the Nazi salute when you passed those 
monuments. It was a little frightening, and it became very 
obvious that there was a terrible situation developing. The 


Olympic Games had taken place that year in Berlin, and Jesse 
Owens had won all these things but had been snubbed by Hitler. 
Things like this were powerful messages. In any case, Berlin 
was a wonderful city then, and 1 spent several days there. 

Riess: Did he have introductions to Germans, and did that get to be an 
awkward situation? 

Ratcliff: Yes, he did have. It was interesting. 
Riess: Did you find yourself having to keep quiet? 

Ratcliff: No, I didn't, and he didn't, either. He knew Germans who were 
in very high places, as a matter of fact, and I met one or two 
of them. At that time Riggs was very worried about Russia. He 
was less worried about Germany than he was about Russia. His 
feeling was that Russia was going to take over very shortly and 
that the Germans recognized this. As a matter of fact, he 
supported the German position because he felt the Russians were 
the big danger in the long run. 

That bothered me a little bit, because while I didn't know 
nearly as much about it as he did, I felt that the Germans were 
the present big thing to worry about. He made an effort to 
change my mind, which is okay, but we never did agree. In any 
case, then I went to Paris for a while. I didn't travel all 
the time with him. I traveled in France by myself. 

Riess: Were you seeing International-style buildings and Bauhaus 

Ratcliff: I didn't see any Bauhaus buildings. I expected to, but I 

didn't see any. By that time, the Bauhaus had moved to Dessau, 
and I didn't get to Dessau. 

Riess: How about Corbusier in France? 

Ratcliff: No, I didn't see any of his work at that time. 

Riess: Is that because you weren't sufficiently tuned in? 

Ratcliff: Mostly because I wasn't sufficiently prepared to know where to 
look, I guess. 

Anyway, the other very quick thing--! went to Copenhagen, 
to Stockholm, and to England. This was not with Riggs. I have 
family in Leamington, and I decided I'd like to go there. My 
aunt drove me all over the Midlands, it seemed. We saw 
villages, the cottages and cathedrals that she thought were 
interesting. It was not modern architecture at all, but it was 
English architecture, which I'll have to say is pretty fine. 


The whole countryside there is just so beautiful. I was 
impressed. I hadn't realized, somehow, that it was as good as 
I thought it was, at that time. 

Riess: What would you say were the two architectural influences that 
really stuck with you through your whole life? Was there 
anything you saw in Spain that you've actually put into 
buildings since, or anything that you saw in those English 
countryside dwellings that became part of your vocabulary as an 

Ratcliff: Well, I don't think there were any details I could say became a 
part of my vocabulary, but 1 guess what I think happens, when 
you look at these things , is in the Spanish architecture you 
see an earthy approach to use of materials and the way they 
somehow fit into the landscape, so that the building really 
becomes a kind of a natural expression of forms and materials 
that really relate to the place where they were built. I guess 
from Spanish architecture I feel that all the colors and the 
whole character of the work is inspired, somehow, by the 
character of the places where it is built. 

That isn't entirely true in urban settings, but I think it 
is true of the villages and the domestic architecture. Charles 
V came down there with his Holy Roman Empire. He started doing 
things in his way, and the Moors had come in from the other 
direction, doing the things their way. A very interesting 
weaving together of two cultures, and the architecture took 
place, heavily influenced by the natural environment. I felt 
that a lot of Spanish architecture shows the influence of a 
political situation. It expresses something very clearly about 
what happened and how people live. 

Finding a Job--Mavhew and Hasten and Hurd 

Riess: When you were looking for work when you returned from Europe, 
who would you most like to have worked for? 

Ratcliff: I wanted to work for Wurster, for one. He was the first one. 

He never invited me to join his firm, but I would have liked to 
have done that. There were several people that I thought did 
nice work. A fellow named [Clarence] Tantau--! never worked 
for him, but I applied. 

Riess: How about Gardner Dailey? 









Of course, Gardner Dailey was another one. I really liked 
Gardner Dailey, and I never worked with Gardner Dailey, though 
I applied often enough to get to know him. 

When you were applying to work for these people did you talk 
directly with Wurster and Dailey? 

Oh, sure. Architects were generally very good about this. I 
found that I always talked to the head man. 

Could you have worked for Wurster if you had been willing to 
work for next to nothing? 

I didn't put it on that basis, and I don't think so. I think I 
just didn't come at the right time. I knew a lot of people who 
worked for him, and I knew Theodore [Bernard!]. It wasn't a 
matter of not being acquainted and not being friendly. It was 
a matter of just not coordinating with him. 

I finally came to this side of the bay and got my first 
job with Clarence Mayhew, who had something to do. I didn't 
even know who he was, but I went and applied and got a job. 
There was one other person working there named Van der Kar. 
He's in Los Angeles at this point. He's older than I am, and 

he was older than Clarence, too. 
the show for Clarence . 

He was really kind of running 


Mayhew opened his private practice in 1934. I wonder how. 

He had some good friends in Piedmont, I don't know what class 
--do you happen to know what class he was at Cal? 

He graduated in 1927. He went to Cal and first worked for 
Miller and Pflueger in the city. Maybe they didn't need him 
anymore , and then he came over here . 

Probably. The problem was that people didn't have big backlogs 
of work in those days. They hired you for the job, 
practically. "We've got a building to do," and you'd go and 
work there for three months. It was hard to find work. It was 
sort of like the contracting business was in those days. If 
you were a carpenter, you just got switched around between 
different contractors. 

The other person I know who worked for Mayhew was Vernon 
DeMars . 

Ratcliff: I didn't know that. 






He says that he was working for Mayhew doing- -this is the 
quote--"doing eclectic English half-timber stuff in Piedmont 
and just bored to tears doing it." 

That's right, [laughing] That's right. 

He said, "I worked all alone doing that, and it didn't seem 
very important." Was that somewhat descriptive? 

That's the sort of description I would have, too. Vernon 
worked there before I did, I think, because Vernon' s older than 
I am. I don't think Van worked with Vernon. Van der Kar also 
was much more interested in doing modern architecture. He 
wasn't interested in half -timber at all. He was having a 
strong influence on Mayhew at that time. Mayhew didn't really 
invent any of the things he did. I think he just did what his 
clients asked. 

I see that Mayhew and [Serge] Chermayeff did a house together 
in Oakland. 

Ratcliff: That was a strange thing, I thought, in a way. That happened 
after I left his office. Clarence got married to a lady in 
Piedmont, and they needed a house. It was fortunate that he 
married a gal who had a lot of money. Clarence's father was a 
contractor, and I don't think they had a great deal of money, 
but this gal did, apparently. So he hired Chermayeff to design 
his house. 


Chermayeff designed a house which was an interesting 
house. It's in two separate rectangular sections, connected by 
a staircase. It's on a steep hill. It's a nice solution, but 
it's anything but English cottage-style. It is Chermayeff. 
You know Chermayeff 's work. Chermayeff is very much more like 
Mies than he is like anyone else. 

I was pretty fresh out of school when I worked for Mayhew, 
and I worked there for a little more than a year. Then when 
they ran out of work I began searching again in San Francisco 
and found a job with Mas ten and Hurd. 

They had been in your father's office earlier. 

Yes, before World War I. They were both working in his office. 
Then they joined the army, and they both went to France 
together, and both became captains of their platoons or 
companies. They were stationed together all through the war, 
so when one company did something, they both went together. 
They were real buddies. They decided, when they came back-- 


neither one of them had been hurt, but they had seen action and 
had a lot of fun in Paris together, and they came back and 
decided to be partners. They started a firm right after they 
got back. 

Riess: Hasten and Kurd's work then in the late thirties is described 
as streamline moderne. 

Ratcliff: That's pretty accurate, [laughing] However, I worked on a 
residence for Hasten when he built his own house out in San 
Francisco. It was English cottage style. That was really 
where he felt most comfortable, I think. He was a lovely 

Riess: What did you learn from your tenure with them? 
Ratcliff: Well, just about everything I knew, really. 
Riess: Hore so than with Hayhew. 

Ratcliff: Oh, yes, because I was there a much longer time. After I left 
Hasten and Hurd the war broke out, and that was about the end 
of things . 


Between Hayhew and Hasten and Hurd, I got four years of 
experience and took the state license examination. That's 
actually the last time I ever worked in another office. So I 
got almost all the experience I had with Hasten and Hurd. 

Riess: That's the examination where you had to name the architects of 
the Louvre? 

Ratcliff: Yes, that's right. 

Riess: You had just taken that and then came the war? 

Ratcliff: I got my license in 1941. The war had already started, and you 
had to have priorities to get materials, and architecture was 
just about stopped. We had two children by that time, and 
Evelyn was sure that if I went to Europe I'd never come back. 
It made her hysterical, practically. So I decided the only 
other option was to do something that was essential here in 
this country. That's when I applied to work on the Pacific 
Naval Air Base . 

Riess: Let me just go back a minute and ask: during that time when you 
were working for Hasten and Hurd, were there opportunities 
presented to you to become involved in Farm Security or Rural 
Rehabilitation Administration work? 


Ratcliff : No. Let me tell you what we did. The first thing that 
happened was they got involved in the Public Works 
Administration, the PWA. They got some schools to do. 
Several, as a matter of fact. They were very substantial jobs. 
I never got deeply involved in the design of these schools. I 
was mostly making preliminary plans and working drawings. 
Also, I had lots of conversations, principally with Hasten. 
Lester Hurd spent more time out of the office looking for work, 
and Hasten spent more of his time in the office, somehow taking 
care of the details and coming over and talking about what to 
do and see how you did it. He held my hand a great deal, and 
it really was very helpful. 

There was another guy named Jim Johnson, who was a 
brother-in-law of Scott Haymond, who worked for my father. Jim 
was hired as the office manager. I was hired before Jim, but 
when the work started to build up and these schools started to 
come in and the office grew up a little bit, then they hired 
Jim to be the office manager- specif ication writer person that 
would look after details and answer questions. 

Then Steve Allen came to work. Steve and 1 sat at desks 
beside each other for a long time. Steve didn't know too much 
about things either. Steve was a better draftsman than I was. 
He was much better at making sketches than I was, so they got 
him to doing a lot of that sort of thing. Then there was a 
fellow named Ralph Pollock who joined. He was older than I was 
by quite a few years, actually. He was a licensed architect 
and a very, very nice guy who was extremely helpful. 

Then a guy named Hac Harper came along, and old Hac Harper 
took a special liking to me for some reason. Hac was a project 
architect. I was assigned to him, and one thing we did 
together was the University Press Building, on the corner of 
Oxford and Center in Berkeley. He was really extremely 
helpful. I learned a lot from him. 

I must hand it to Hasten and Hurd. They made it possible 
for a young person to come in and really grow. Being in a 
generous office was a very nice thing. I have felt indebted to 
them ever since. 

Riess: It sounds like there was a building boom right then. 

Ratcliff: Well, every office didn't have this opportunity, but Lester 
Hurd had friends in the navy in Washington and contacts in 
Sacramento. They somehow were able to get several projects. 
Hy first project to do as a project architect was a one-room 
school in Weaverville. Sort of a ridiculous little thing, you 




know, about the size of a four-car or six-car garage, a tiny 
little house. 

Did it incorporate a lot of thought? 

Oh, yes, it certainly did. Hasten sat with me and told me what 
he felt we should do, and how he thought we should do it. He 
was just an awfully nice guy. 

Well, the streamline moderne firehouse in Redding, 
design was that? 


I don't know. I think modern architecture was not something 
that Hasten and Kurd really understood. I think to them it was 
a fad which was characterized by a certain kind of "modern" 
detail, or lack of detail, an overemphasis on simplicity. 
Actually, the things that they were doing at that time 
certainly were not lasting ideas. I didn't feel then that they 
really were getting much of a thrill out of it. Some other 
architects seem to be inspired by new ideas, rather than 
"brought to the table," in a sense, as I felt they were. But 
it was natural because they grew up in a whole different 
atmosphere . 





What was your impression of Telesis and the people who were 

Oh, that was a great organization. It was a collection of 
inspired people, and 1 thought it was a wonderful organization. 

It was a wonderful organization, but what did it really do? 

It was a forum for a lot of people. For me, it was a contact 
with a world of ideas. I felt strengthened by associating with 
the people whom I felt had exciting ideas and who were doing 
things I admired. This organization had a focus and an 
interest that brought together a lot of people whose ideas were 
developing along the same lines, and who had a lot of vitality 
and interest. 

Planning, for instance? 

Yes, planning was a major emphasis. Even though as an 
organization it didn't survive, the ideas have survived. 



fact that everybody got together as a group strengthened their 









By "everybody, 

you're talking about a different bunch of 

Yes, different disciplines. 

One of the ideas that they had in the early days of Telesis is 
there might have been an organized center in San Francisco 
where landscapers and planners and architects all were in the 
same building, functioning in some ideal way. That must have 
appealed to you. Did you attend meetings? 

I went to some. I was never an active member. As I remember, 
most of the meetings were in San Francisco. They were a little 
far away, and I wasn't as active as I probably should have 

Were they considered to be controversial? 

Yes. I think it was seen as the cutting edge, an extension of 
the Bauhaus principles. The establishment didn't agree with 
Gropius. My old man didn't really agree with Gropius. I'm 
pretty sure Steilberg didn't. 

But I thought that what characterized Telesis was the idea of 
planning for people, which is more of a political or economic 

Well, from that point of view I think, there was widespread 
agreement . 

I had an aunt who was deeply involved in Telesis, my 
mother's sister, Florence Swift. She was much involved in it. 

Supporting it financially? 

I think she did. She was an active member and an enthusiastic 
supporter. She was an artist. It had membership other than 
architects and planners. Imogen Cunningham also supported it 

Her son was a member, I know. 
Gryff [Partridge] was, yes. 


Alameda Naval Base- -Salvaging a Dredge 





Anyway, then you got your job at the Alameda Naval Base, 
was a little bit far afield, maybe? 


It was an interim experience that lasted a long time, up until 
1945 --August 15, 1945, which was V-J Day. 

Did that take pull to get that job? 

No. What happened then was that, as 1 was telling you a moment 
ago, Evelyn was nervous and she wanted me to see if I couldn't 
find something that I could do at home rather than go into the 
army. 1 heard about this project with the company called 
Hawaiian Raymond Turner, contractors for the Pacific naval air 
bases. The Hawaiian Dredging Company, Raymond Concrete File 
Company, and Turner Construction Company got together in a 
consortium to build all of the Pacific naval air bases, the 
permanent bases which were designed by Albert Kahn, mostly. 
Some of them in Hawaii were designed by W.D. Dickie. Albert 
Kahn at that time had the biggest office in the United States, 
not necessarily the most advanced architecture but at least one 
of the best organized offices I've ever seen in my life. 

Anyway, I was interviewed by the chief engineer, a fellow 
named Russ Fairbairn at the Alameda Naval Air Station. They 
had the assignment by the navy of organizing all the 
structural, mechanical, electrical components of all these 
buildings, actually taking off materials and sending them to 
the various different islands for the projects, designing 
preconstructed elements and making components of parts for each 
building. It was an engineering job. It was not an 
architectural job. 

So I listened, and he said, "What do you know about 
structural engineering?" I said I had studied some structural 
engineering in architectural courses, in college. Then he 
said, "Did you ever work for a structural engineer?" and I said 
no. He said, "In other words, you don't know anything about 
it." I said, "Well, I guess that's right." 

So he said, "What do you know about electrical?" and I 
said, "Well, it's the same thing." "What do you know about 
mechanical?" I said, "That's the same thing." 

"In other words, you really don't know anything about 
engineering. " 


I said, "Well, okay, I guess that's probably right. All I 
can say is that I've had some experience in college and a very 
limited experience, really, in architecture, but I know the 
formulas, and I know how to draw. That's about all 1 can say." 
"Well," he said, "we've got to get an engineer. I don't think 
you can fill this bill, but I'll give it consideration." 

I thought, "Oh, well, that's not going to work, and I 
can't see how I can possibly get that job." The next day he 
called and said, "How about coming to work?" I said, "After 
that interview, you want me to come to work?!" [laughing] 
Yeah, he did. So I went out. They put me in the mechanical 
engineering department and introduced me to Jim Evans, the head 
of the department. 

Well, it worked out pretty well. I went back and took 
some courses at Cal to get a little more information about 
practical mechanical engineering, and I worked with Jim Evans. 
He was basically an electrical engineer, but he was also 
mechanical. Then they got into problems of putting these 
things together, and they had three other people in the 
mechanical department. I could draw better than they could. 
So everything that had to be assembled or be drawn, I got to 

It developed that Russ Fairbairn was living at the 
Claremont Hotel. He drove to work every day and invited me to 
ride with him. So I got to know him very well. He was really 
a good guy. I finally decided to ask him about that interview. 
I told him that I had told my wife there was no way I could get 
a job there. And he said, "I just liked the way you talked." 

Then a fight developed within the organization between Jim 
Evans and Jack Worden, who was the office manager, and Jim 
Evans quit. Fairbairn put me in charge of the mechanical 
engineering department. I really didn't know much mechanical 
engineering, but by that time I knew enough about systems and 
so on to do what was needed. 

Just a couple of weeks after that happened, the Dredge 
Harris, which was a thirty- inch suction dredge, sank in 
Honolulu harbor. Somebody had opened the scroll on the big 
pump and the dredge sank in thirty feet of water in the 
entrance to the harbor. The navy came to our off ice --we were 
supervised by the navy- -and told us to get another dredge out 
there immediately to take the place of the Dredge Harris. So 
now I'm head of the mechanical engineering department, and all 
of a sudden, I'm called into the commander's office, along with 


Russ Fairbairn, and told, "Get a dredge to Honolulu, 
immediately!" Oh, boy, I had never been on a dredge. I had 
never been closer than a mile to a dredge. I didn't know 
anything about them. So they turned to me and said, "Okay, get 
a dredge. It's your job." 

I went to my desk, got a telephone book and looked up 
"dredges." [laughter] I found the San Francisco Dredge 
Company, called them up, and I got the head man, named Fred 
Muhs , on the telephone. I said, "I'm calling about replacing 
the Dredge Harris which was sunk in Honolulu harbor." He said 
he knew about that. Then I said, "Well, we have an order from 
the navy to try to find a dredge and get it out there as 
quickly as possible." He said he expected that. I mean, these 
dredge people have their ears to the ground. Then I asked him 
what he could tell me about the availability of a dredge. 

"Well," he said, "There are not very many dredge people on 
the Pacific Coast. There's a guy in Los Angeles and a guy in 
Santa Barbara and two guys here in San Francisco. That's just 
about all there are. We have already analyzed the situation, 
and there's really only one dredge that's going to be 
available. It's an old one, and it's called the Dredge 

Riess: Dredges have names like ships? 

Ratcliff: Yes, they seem to be named after people. The Dredge McMullen 

was also a thirty -inch suction dredge. It was doing a job down 
near Palo Alto, and it was about finished. It was old. It was 
built in 1900 and had all kinds of problems. I went over to 
look at it with one of the naval officers. 

We had it hauled into general engineering dry dock in 
Alameda for repairs. I don't know if you want a description of 
a dredge on this tape, but it was a wild thing. It had a rope 
drive! It reminded me of Jules Verne. It had three big Heine 
Steam boilers which powered a ten- foot diameter drum over which 
twenty-one- inch-and-a-half ropes passed, forming a belt that 
drove the main suction pump. The scroll of the pump was about 
eight to ten feet in diameter, connected to the 32 -inch 
diameter suction line. It was a monstrous big thing. 

Everything was worn out, including the water tanks. I 
didn't know where to start, so I decided to take an 
architectural approach, and I made an isometric diagram of all 
the pipes and equipment in each system, showing where things 
were located. I then went over the problems with the guy who 
was operating it, which was a good start. 


Ratcliff : 


By the time the dredge arrived at the general engineering 
dry dock, we knew something about it. The navy officer came 
over, looked at it and said, "This dredge must be in tow in two 
or three weeks out to the Islands." The director of the dry 
dock said, "Mr. Nordstrom here is going to be the construction 
superintendent. He's the best man we have, and we're sure that 
the job will be done. We hope it can be done in the time 
frame . " I was introduced as the one who knew what had to be 
done and would be working with Nordstrom. 

Everybody left except Nordstrom and me. I looked at him 
and said, "I don't know how we can win a war this way. I was 
on a dredge the first time in my life last week, and I really 
know nothing about dredges. We have some things to talk 
about . " 

"Well," he said, " come to my office." When we arrived, 
he said, reaching into his desk, "There is a rule of no liquor 
on the base, but we must have a drink on this." [laughing] He 
was a wonderful guy. We just had no problem at all. It was an 
experience . 

Well, it's interesting, because red tape is the usual story. 

Right. No red tape existed after we got started. He was as 
clear as he could be, and he was a wonderful construction boss. 

That was the main adventure there . 

That was an experience. It was certainly not architecture. 

Chicago. Naval Procurement: Seabees 

Ratcliff: Then the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in '41. 

Riess: We've come to this point where you once said to me that you 
held the most important title you've ever had. [laughter] 

Ratcliff: I don't know if it was the most important. It was one of the 
most demanding. I had never worked harder in my life, I'll 
tell you that. Pearl Harbor happened on December 7, '41, and 
that ended the work on the permanent bases in the Pacific. The 
office had to shut down, and our organization in Alameda was 
given the job of starting to develop a SeaBee program for the 
Pacific, which meant setting up components for temporary bases. 


The Bureau of Yards and Docks under Admiral Morrell had 
come out with 201 different types of bases. We were designing 
components to meet the requirements for all of those different 
situations. Simplifying the Quonset hut design was a big 
problem. Our job was largely an administrative one of trying 
to simplify the components, the materials, and the equipment 
and everything, down to the simplest common denominator. One 
of the basic reasons for that was to make a feasible spare 
parts program, something that you could actually maintain. We 
would try to limit the number of sizes of bolts, for example, 
limit everything down to the point where parts were 
interchangeable . 

The Quonset hut we designed over and over again until we 
got it down to the point where you could tip a boat over and 
lose half the load and still everything left would work. That 
was one of the key things. It was a very successful program. 
Toward the end of the war, we finally had it organized so that 
there were less than five thousand different items in the 
program. A bulldozer was an item, but also a bolt was an item. 
It was a very streamlined program, and it was efficient. 

Riess: What was your title? 

Ratcliff: My title let me tell you where it started. This was a 
procurement office, you know. There were three parts, 
purchasing, packaging, and engineering. 

Riess: And the whole organization was called- - 

Ratcliff: Well, it was called CNAB, Contractors for the Pacific Naval Air 
Bases, or Hawaiian Raymond Turner when we were doing it in 
Oakland. Then it became the central procurement agency for the 
SeaBees in Chicago. 

What happened was the procurement agency for the SeaBees 
in Davisville, Rhode Island, moved to Chicago when the Pacific 
War started. They took some from Oakland and some from 
Davisville to make up the central office in Chicago. 

Riess: The actual factory, or where any components were made, was that 
also in Chicago? 

Ratcliff: No, we didn't make anything. We were not manufacturing or 
making a thing. We were just an administrative arm of the 
SeaBees. We were contractors in charge of analyzing what was 
needed and making up components, lists of materials, and 
drawings for all the different construction and facility needs 
so that by ordering a list of components the navy could outfit 


any one of the 201 different types of bases that they had 
designed. We were also responsible for purchasing and 
packaging and delivery to Port Hueneme. 

Anyway, when they made this decision to put the SeaBees in 
Chicago in 1943, they took Russ Fairbairn, Claude Schreve, and 
me to set up the engineering department. They rented two 
floors in the Furniture Mart in Chicago. It was a big 
building. There were no light wells, it just occupied one 
full, square block. They finally built the department up so 
there were about two hundred in engineering. There was an 
enormous amount of work. 

Claude Schreve was head mechanical engineer. Russ 
Fairbairn was the structural engineer who had come from the 
Turner Construction Company. Claude Schreve had also come from 
Turner Construction Company. I went in as an assistant to the 
chief engineer, Fairbairn, who was in charge of a whole 
department. There were three naval officers and Fairbairn and 
me. My principal work was really an administrative job. I was 
responsible for assigning and scheduling and overseeing the 
work of the various different groups of people in the 
department . When there was a lot of drawing that had to be 
done quickly, I usually had to do it. 

Riess: You've said that one of the tasks was responding to the needs 
of the men in the field. I wondered whether any of that came 
directly to you, when you heard that things weren't working. 
In what form did you hear it? 

Ratcliff : We had a staff meeting every Saturday morning to review what we 
were doing, to reset our priorities, and to try to get key 
people up to speed. So we met, Russ and I and Schreve, and old 
W.D. Hammond, who was the overall project head for purchasing, 
engineering and packaging, plus the navy. 

Different people came in from the Pacific bases where they 
h"'i been. People came from Washington. So it was a time when 
t..3 key people were present and important decisions were made. 
One of the best parts of these meetings was to have people from 
the field tell us what they needed. 

Riess: How they had to improvise out there and so on? 

Ratcliff: Right, and whether our equipment was adequate, whether we 

should change anything, what kinds of things didn't work, what 
did work, what problems occurred, what things they would change 
if they could. 


The SeaBee organization- -the field management that I 
bumped into, both overseas and in this country, were not made 
up of a bunch of young people who had worked themselves up 
through the navy. They were the best construction people you 
could find. They were very well-informed, very ingenious, 
really smart guys. I didn't meet many architects, but I met a 
lot of contractors, road-building people who could tell you 
how, and we needed that, because every project on these islands 
started from scratch. They had to cut the trees, level the 
ground, and build the buildings and all that. They had to be 
totally self sufficient. 

With the King's English put aside, they told us how it 
was. We didn't send them enough spare parts, and we should 
simplify the details so that everything was interchangeable. 
Most of it was aimed directly at engineering. We were sort of 
the scapegoats in the whole thing. If anything wasn't right- - 
it didn't fit or do something else --it was our fault. The 
packaging guy just put packages around what we gave him. The 
purchasing guy just bought what we told him. And the navy 
lieutenants just watched and signed our letters. The SeaBee 
team was made up of experienced people. 

Riess: You mean Admiral Morrell really didn't know? 

Ratcliff : Oh, Morrell was one of the ones who did know, and everybody 

admired him. He was one guy who knew what he didn't know, and 
he had great respect for the people who were doing work. 
Everybody thought he was a wonderful guy. 

Riess: Did you actually have contact with him? 

Ratcliff: Yes, but not often. 

[phone interruption] 

Riess: I'll put this quote into the oral history: 

"...the Navy pontoon, this miraculous five -by- seven-by- 
five-foot steel box, was developed by the Navy Civil Engineer 
Corps. It was one of the war's really significant devices. It 
will be ranked with the jeep, the duck, the LST, and the 
bulldozer when we classify the machines which helped us 
confound our enemies. Put together like building blocks, these 
pontoons can be used to make a barge, a pontoon causeway for a 
landing operation, or a stationary pier. There are a hundred 
uses for them. You saw them everywhere. Their assembly both 
in this country and in the islands was a tremendous industry. 





industry. The Navy had five Pontoon Assembly Detachments 
(known as PADs) in the Pacific..."* 

These navy pontoons. Were .they also in your department? 

They were built before we got there. They were built in 
Davisville. The comments I got, though, from the people, again 
from our Saturday meetings, were not all good. They just 
roasted us, because of the connection devices. 

Apparently, they were a square box with the corners cut 
off on a forty- five degree angle. There was a little 
triangular device you were supposed to drop into this corner 
which locked the boxes together. The problem was that when 
they were trying to put this together, they were always out on 
the ocean, and everything was bouncing around, and a lot of the 
time they'd drop the thing, and the little triangular device 
would drop to the bottom of the ocean. Then they would run out 
of little devices. They just had more darned trouble putting 
the things together. But I guess once they got them together, 
they worked pretty well. 

In that particular case, what is the difference between 
architecture and engineering? 

Both engineers and architects face problems like this. 
Probably no difference. 

It was very ingenious, and boy, it locked it up, there's 
no question! But the guy who designed it didn't think it all 
the way through and realize the circumstances under which you 
had to do it. Everything bouncing around gave them some 
trouble . 

Riess: It's interesting that now the curse of the Pentagon is scandals 
in procurements. And yet, you were working with the navy at a 
time when it was probably as free from scandal as ever. 

Ratcliff: I think it probably was pretty free from scandal. The Small 
Business Administration was in there watching and asking to 
become involved. One of the big problems in the purchasing 
department was, I think, that it was easier to give the work to 
a few large, well-established companies than to spread it 
around to unknown small companies. Admiral Morrell was strong 
for trying to involve the little guys. This could have had an 

p. 36, From Omaha to Okinawa. William Bradford Huie, E.P. Dutton 
Co., NY 1945. 


effect on reducing the number of handouts. There was a lot of 
conversation about it. I never got involved with it beyond 
hearing it at lunchtime. There really wasn't much time for 
investigation; we all had to produce. 

Riess: Weren't all the jobs bid? 

Ratcliff: Oh, the jobs were bid, as a rule, but I think a lot of times 

they would develop a unit price and they would give contractors 
one assignment after another. The question of how much profit 
there was in these unit prices may not have been answered. 
Some of the companies got nailed pretty hard after the war when 
their accounts were analyzed and found to have huge profits. 

Riess: They pursued this even after the war? 

Ratcliff: Oh, after the war was when it all took place. Soule Steel over 

here, you know, when their books were examined it was 

discovered that they had made an enormous profit. Soule had to 

put a lot of it back. During the war there was so much 

pressure to get things done quickly that you couldn't stop and 

argue about the price. You just simply had to say, "Do it. We 

will talk about it later." 

Life in Chicago for Evelyn and Bob 

Riess: Was it nice for you and Evelyn to be out of Berkeley for a 

Ratcliff: Well, it was different. Owen Lattimore rented our house when 
we were away, and we rented a very nice old house in Evanston, 
at 722 Judson Avenue, which is in the southern part of 
Evanston, in the Main Street district. We lived there for most 
of the time. And then the house was sold, so we had to move. 
We moved to a much less attractive house. 

Riess: I was thinking that when you were in Berkeley you were always 
children, in a way, always surrounded by your family. In 
Chicago you were really on your own. Did you particularly 
revel in that? 

Ratcliff: Well, no, we liked our family. As a matter of fact, it made it 
more difficult to keep in close contact with them. But we 
telephoned often. I didn't ever feel that I was limited by my 
family. I felt as though they were urging us to somehow reach 
out. It was a good experience for us from that point of view. 


Being independent was a good experience, and certainly it was a 
lot of fun. 






And also a lot of stress, 
was a hard job. 

I know that you also said that it 

It was an awfully hard job. I'd leave at about seven o'clock 
in the morning and get back around eleven o'clock at night and 
do that six days a week. It was a workout. 

When did you get a chance to sing with Madi Bacon? 

Oh, we sang at night, and I took time off to do that. I took 
enough time off to take a course in city planning at night from 
Hilbesheimer down at IIT [Illinois Institute of Technology], 
next to a course given by Mies. Mies and Hilbesheimer used to 
comment and discuss our projects. Part of the work we did was 
in the Art Institute where Mies was teaching. 

I guess from what I said first it sounds as though my job 
took up all my time, but it didn't. We even had baseball 
games, occasionally, which was fun. We went swimming at the 
Main Street beach, which was fun. We went out to Skokie with 
the kids on weekends, sometimes. 

Did you go in search of the Frank Lloyd Wright prairie houses 
when you were there? 

Oh, we certainly did. Whenever we had a chance we went looking 
at the things like that, Frank Lloyd Wright's and Sullivan's 
buildings. We really enjoyed that part of it. Chicago, we 
were told, was going to be terrible. It was the "Windy City," 
it was an uncomfortable place to live. On the contrary, we got 
to feeling very much at home there. I really liked it. 

There were a lot of great people there, and it seemed more 
like the center of the United States than San Francisco. To a 
person from the Midwest, in Chicago San Francisco seems almost 
out of touch. Chicago felt close to New York and Washington. 
It was easy to get there [New York] . You could do it overnight 
on a train, whereas you couldn't think of going to San 
Francisco and getting back in less than a week. It would take 
you three days to go each way. 

What was the choral group, and how did you discover Madi? 

I knew Madi, actually, before we went to Chicago. I enjoy 
singing a lot and sang in some groups out here. When I 


discovered she had a group, I just thought it would be good to 
join, which I did. 

Riess: Did you know her through the Sierra Club out here? 

Ratcliff: Yes, it was through the Sierra Club. Back in Chicago I got to 
know her as a conductor. She was a dynamic little gal. I had 
a very good time . 

Buildine the House on Panoramic Way in Berkeley. 1941 

Riess: When did you build this house? 

Ratcliff: Well, we built the first part, designed it in 1940 and finished 
in 1941. 

Riess: Oh, when you were with Hasten and Hurd. I see. 

Ratcliff: Yes. We just built the first unit, and what inspired us to do 
it was that Evelyn's mother died and left a piece of property 
here, half of which was vacant, and so we decided that this was 
a place where we might build a small house. We didn't think 
we'd live here forever. We just thought we could live in it 
for a while. So we designed it. 

Riess: The two of you together? 

Ratcliff: Oh, sure, and had it built by a man named Tom Lossing, a 

general contractor whose low bid was $4500. We thought that 
was on the high side, [laughs] It was one of the best things 
we did. It gave us our own place to live in. Prior to that, 
we were living in an apartment at 22 Panoramic Way which was 
sandwiched between some sailors on the bottom floor and a 
family with a bunch of little kids on the top. We were sort of 
in the middle, like the short stack of hotcakes! 

Riess : What does this house incorporate that you had always wanted to 
have in a house? 

Ratcliff: It did a number of things that were very satisfying. It's 

built where it gets a good view, and we made a maximum effort 
to capture it. We built a fairly good-sized deck, and we had 
all the rooms facing the view. It is built on a steep lot that 
faces the street on both top and bottom. The bedroom and 
sleeping porch were on the lower floor, and the kitchen, 
living/dining room, and deck were on the top floor. It was 
convenient for a couple with one child. 


[Interview 4: May 16, 1989 ]## 

Fernwald Hall and Some Troubling Conclusions 

Riess: Your father never encouraged you to go east to architecture 
school? Was that ever discussed? 

Ratcliff: I don't think we ever discussed it. It would have been 

possible. The only schools that I considered were Harvard, 
Yale, MIT, and Cornell. But UC Berkeley was considered very 
good, and it was right here. I just got an undergraduate 
degree in architecture. I felt that I had a lot more to learn. 
In those days, out here, that was what most people did in 
school. The rest came with experience in the field. 

There was a graduate school at Berkeley, but there was 
only one student in the school. That was Bob [Robert H.] Gann, 
and there was only one instructor. That was Bill [William C.] 
Hays . When they gave the graduate degrees to people in 
different colleges, there was just this one graduate in the 
College of Architecture. Everybody in the stadium sort of 
whispered and laughed. 

Riess: After the war was over, or during that period when you were in 
Chicago, did you begin to think that you might even take your 
career in a different direction, because you were involved in 
things that were rather different? 

Ratcliff: I really didn't. I was set to go at that time. As a matter of 

fact, I had started going before the war, so I felt as though I 

had been interrupted. I was very anxious to get at 

I didn't have a well worked-out plan of exactly how I 
would do it when the war ended- -VJ Day was on Wednesday the 
15th of August. My father had been working with Bob Sibley and 


the Alumni Association on a housing project for the University. 
Things began to develop several weeks before the war ended. 
The University had gotten hold of the Fernwald property at the 
end of Dwight Way. I think it was Thursday or late on 
Wednesday I got a telephone call saying, "We've got a project 
that is going to start tomorrow," which was then Friday, "and 
you've got to come out and help us because we don't have the 
drawings made. Dinwiddie Construction's going to start 
building it, and we've given them some sketches, but that's 

So I went to Russ Fairbairn, who was the chief engineer, 
and said, "I guess this is going to be it. If it's okay with 
you, tomorrow's my last day." 

Riess: It was possible to muster out? 

Ratcliff: It sort of shook him a little bit. We talked about it for a 
while, and he decided, "Well, after all, the war really is 
over. From now on all we have to do is to button up our 
affairs, and I guess you're not essential for that, so I guess 
you can go." So Saturday I got a DC -3 that took eleven hours 
to get to San Francisco. I arrived on Sunday morning at about 
two a.m. Somehow I got public transportation to Oakland and 
then got a taxicab with two or three other guys who were going 
north. I got home at about four o'clock in the morning. 

Riess: To your own home? 

Ratcliff: My parents' house. I was married, but I didn't have a place to 
live in Berkeley because our house was rented to some girls who 
moved out shortly after that. So then work started on Sunday. 

Riess: What had your father been doing during the war? 

Ratcliff: Well, he spent most of his time in the Fidelity Savings and 

Loan. He was president of Fidelity. He had quite a struggle 
to hold it together, as a matter of fact. 

Riess: Why did Bob Sibley turn to your father then? Why the Ratcliff 

Ratcliff: Well, they were old friends, classmates at Cal. The firm still 
existed, and Scott Haymond was still working for my father and 
had been for twenty years or more. Scott Haymond was really 
the office at that point. My father didn't participate very 
much, but he had the connections. 


Before that, Sibley and my father had talked about student 
housing and were looking at the Stitt Wilson property, the 
ninety acres which became the cyclotron. Before the war he 
made a study of that area for student housing. They made a 
great model of the site with a lot of student housing. It 
would have solved all the housing needs. They really had a big 
idea, ahead of its time. 

Sibley urged the University to buy it. They paid 90,000 
bucks for it, ninety acres. Sibley urged the University to 
designate it for student housing. But Lawrence had Just made 
the cyclotron work, and they decided to put the cyclotron there 
[1940]. So that project ended, and the Fernwald project 
cropped right up. 

Riess: Wouldn't that have been awfully far from campus? 

Ratcliff: Not far, but it is a steep hill. 

Riess: In fact, Fernwald is rather far from campus, too. 

Ratcliff: Yes, but there isn't much of a hill involved. Nothing's that 
far in Berkeley, really. Almost everything in Berkeley is in 
walking distance. 

Riess: That decision to keep it for the cyclotron was obviously 

Ratcliff: Well, they envisioned nuclear energy as becoming a big thing 
that would expand and require a lot of space. 

Riess: The expectation was that after the war the campus population 
would expand greatly? 

Ratcliff: Yes, and Fernwald wasn't really that big. I forget how many 

students we had over there, about six hundred, I guess. By the 
time I arrived, Scott had designed the buildings like war 
housing. This was supposed to be temporary student housing; 
everybody emphasized how this was just temporary housing. The 
University had budgeted one million dollars. That was the 
total budget. Everything had to fit within that budget, and 
Dinwiddie Construction had been hired to do it. 

They were typical dormitories that were designed to meet 
the minimum provisions of the state law, which said that no 
person should have to walk more than 100 feet to an exit or an 
exit stair. So the buildings are 200 feet long. They were two 
stories high. They were wood frame "no-hour" fire 
construction. They were designed in the cheapest possible way. 


There were two students per room, 160 feet in each room. There 
were central bathrooms arranged with one washbasin and one 
toilet and one shower for each seven people, which was then the 
basic standard. Everything was done to the minimum standard 
permitted by the UC Housing Office and the State code. 

Riess: And no effort to ameliorate that with design or charm? 

Ratcliff: Well, when I got here I was shocked at the design concept, 

because there really was none. The buildings were like blocks 
put on the site, following the contour: buildings 200 feet long 
and 25 feet wide, just laid up like logs on a hill with flat 
roofs and stucco exterior. 

During that first week Curtis Smith, Sr. , who was then 
running Dinwiddie, called up and said, "We've just bought the 
windows for the project. They will be double -hung windows, and 
they'll be in pairs, and they'll be a certain size. So just 
make the drawings fit that." Then pretty soon we'd get another 
call, saying, "We've just bought all the doors for the project. 
And all the doors will be 2 '8" wide and 6 '8" high." Monday 
morning, when I got there, the bulldozers were clearing the 
site. They cleared all the way down to Hillside Court. There 
used to be a lot of trees in there , and they had cut all the 
trees down and were bulldozing the site. The neighbors 
objected. They said that this would be multiple housing, and 
this was a single-family district both sides of Hillside Court. 
The zoning went in 100 feet, so you can't build multiple 
housing within 100 feet of Hillside Court. 

Unfortunately, by the time the University realized this, 
all the trees had been cleared. It was just too bad. If it 
was not going to be built on for multiple housing, it would 
have been much better to save the trees and put residences in 
there. The way this project was done, I tell you, they shot 
first and asked later. Today, it couldn't be done. It would 
just tear the city apart. 

Riess: Had Dinwiddie had a longstanding relationship with the 

Ratcliff: Oh, they had. The Dinwiddie Construction Company had done 
buildings on campus, and they were a very highly respected 
concern. Bill Norton, who was the business manager of the 
University, was also very close to Sibley. It was a small 
group of people. Sproul, of course, was involved. But the 
University assumed it was their property, that they had the 
right to use it any way they wanted to, without taking the 
trouble to find out whether there was a city ordinance about 


land use. Of course, it had been left to them to be used as a 
bird sanctuary. If it was in the day of the EIR [environmental 
impact report], then you would have had a little trouble. This 
was pretty far from being a bird sanctuary. 

Riess: Well, it sounds like Dinwiddie- -ordinarily, the architects 
would make these first decisions. 

Ratcliff: But in war housing, during the war, you took what was available 
and put it together. This was really done almost as a war 
housing project. That was really a jolt for me. I really 
didn't expect that. 

I then discovered, however, that they hadn't designed a 
dining hall, and they hadn't really decided on what they would 
do in the way of common rooms at the ends of these dormitories. 
I told them, "We've got to do something else." Dinwiddie 
wasn't about to do anything special anywhere . Finally, they 
agreed. Okay, we could design the common space a little 
differently at the end of the buildings. If you go up there, 
you'll notice it's a little bit different. It's a little bit 
better, but I don't think it's great. 

Then the dining hall they agreed should be considered a 
more permanent building, and it ought to be done better. It 
isn't, in my opinion, a great piece of architecture, but at 
least it's better than the rest. We spent time working on the 

Riess: Did your father go to bat on all of this? 

Ratcliff: Yeah, he did. But I think that I was much more concerned about 
this than anybody else seemed to be. 

Riess: Sibley was doing this for the Alumni Association. Why was it 
such a jerry-built project? It wasn't a poor time. A million 
dollars? This was the beginning of a kind of postwar boom. 
Whv was the spirit so miserly? 

Ratcliff: I don't know, but the postwar psychology really hadn't taken 

hold at this point. We had just finished the war. There was a 
lot of confusion. The peacetime wheels were first beginning to 
turn. We were all stumbling, trying to get started. 

This job introduced me to the building trades in a kind of 
a wild way, too. We had plaster exterior walls. At that point 
I really didn't know a great deal about plaster. My father 
knew a lot about it. Dinwiddie Construction knew a lot about 
it. The plastering people were getting in there, and they were 







going to do it their way. That was all there was to it. I can 
remember at one point the union threatened to shut the job down 
because they said that the contractor- -Dinwiddie had gone ahead 
and put up the scaffolding- -had no business putting the 
scaffolding up. The plasterer should be putting up the 
scaffolding. They were going to strike the job. 

And these union bruisers came out to the job, just like 
something from Al Capone's gang, and stood around and 
threatened everybody. Dinwiddie had an old guy on this job 
named Walter, who was their chief superintendent, and he was a 
pretty tough, old guy. He came out and made a deal with them. 
"Okay, you put the planks on the scaffolding. 1 We put up the 
frame." And that seemed to solve it. 

Were these jobs done by a particular ethnic group? 

Well, Italians were mostly doing the plastering, although not 


It was really the University's last war effort, an attempt 
to get ready for all the students coming back with no place to 
put them. They thought they had to have this done by September 
of the next year. This was absolutely mandatory. 

When was Stern Hall done, the women's dorm that [Corbett and 
McMurray and] Wurster did? 

That was later, I think. [Wurster, Bernard! & Emmons 11,000 
ft. addition to Stern Hall, 1959. Original 43,000 ft. 
building, 1942.] 

They had a private donor for Stern Hall and a conspicuous 
campus location. You had to do a good job there. That was 
different. That was quite another thing, you see. Fernwald 
was considered out of the way, there was no donor to satisfy, 
and so there wasn't any social demand for a better thing. 

That's interesting, yes. 
housing, down in Albany? 

And how about the married student 
Was that also postwar? 

Well, that was war housing. That was altered for students. 
Some new work was done on it, but basically it remained the 
same. Ours were better buildings than the Albany buildings, 
and the University was saying. "Well, they're not quite that 


So did you see yourself becoming the conscience of the office? 





I saw myself wondering, really, whether that's where I wanted 
to be. What I found bothered me. I knew, about that time, 
that that wasn't going to be someplace 1 could stay very long. 

I felt as though 1 could talk to my father, and we could 
agree. We didn't really agree on the design approach, however. 
He was much more interested in past classic examples. 1 was 
much more directed toward the future, trying to invent 
something that I thought would fit the site. I was less 
interested in retrieving history than he was and than perhaps I 
am, today. Actually, 1 must say I feel as though some of the 
things I did then were pretty naive, but you have to do a 
little chewing before you know how. At that stage, I really 
didn't know much about architecture. 

What are you saying in hindsight? 
have done it differently? 

You're not saying you would 

I think I had to grow up. I'm still doing it. I had to prove 
things for myself. I felt there were values in the historic 
approach, but I somehow felt that that wasn't the statement we 
should be making in our day. Lots of things were happening in 
this country and in Europe that were new and refreshing, and I 
felt those were the places where we should concentrate our 
ideas and thinking. That was not, unfortunately, what Scott 
Haymond thought. 

A Healthy Savings Institution, and Fidelity's Home Loan Policy 

Ratcliff: You've got to remember, also, that my father was sixty-five 

years old at this point. He was ready to retire. He had spent 
so much time trying to keep the Fidelity from folding during 
the Depression and make it grow into a healthy organization, 
which he did. Finally, it was sold a number of years later. 
The loan commissioner gave ratings to different organizations, 
and several years after the Depression this organization had 
one of the highest ratings in the state. The rating was based 
on the conservative approach to doing business. I mean, how 
much reserve capital did you have to protect your investments 
and that kind of thing. And boy, he saw to it that this 
company had enough to protect itself. Venture capital was 
small compared to its protective mechanism, which was the 
reverse in many younger organizations. 

Many organizations- -if they ever got a dollar, they spent 
it trying to get bigger, in trying to start a new branch. 


Fidelity went on for years with one central office and no 
branches. Financially, they were in a strong position by the 
time he retired. That was a real accomplishment. I have to 
say, he did a tremendous job on that. 

Riess: Was he generous and foresighted in terms of home loans, because 
of his interest? What was his stand? Would Fidelity have been 
a bank that would be willing to finance a new idea? 

Ratcliff: Well, I took a bunch of new ideas down there. Most of the 
projects I was doing after the war needed funding, and they 
would go down to the Fidelity and ask for a loan. Several 
people in the company balked at some of the designs I gave 
them. They would say, "This is a freak. If we fund this, we 
will fall on our face, and we can't afford to do this. You've 
got to understand what people want." 

There was a fellow named Donald Uingate, who was one of 
the old guys in the Fidelity who was very conservative, and he 
wasn't prepared to accept modern--! don't like to use the word 
"modern design," let's say, "contemporary design." He was much 
more a New England type, a Colonial man. Every time I came 
asking for a loan they would rate it down because of the 
design. When I did my own house I had the same problem with 
these guys saying, "You designed this crazy freak up on the 
hill there. How can we lend you money on that?!" [laughing] 

Riess: Would they refer it, ultimately, to your father? 

Ratcliff: My father would say, "It's okay," and then they would do it. 
[laughing] But they were good on that, actually, I think. 
They were better than almost anybody else, and they were 
awfully good on playing the game with their client. During the 
Depression they pulled a lot of people through. They didn't 
foreclose on anybody. Most of the people who had loans 
couldn't keep up with the payments, and they just took notes. 
My father's idea was, "Well, this is a temporary Depression. 
We're going to get out of it." He had lived through a couple 
of them already, and he knew that they didn't last forever. So 
the people who were conscientious and that he trusted and felt 
he could deal with, he simply took a note from them. Somehow 
all survived, and at the end they straightened out their 

Riess: He must have been very smart about deciding who he could really 
risk his reputation on, though. 


Ratcliff: They were very successful at doing that. That was one of the 

great things that they gave to the community. It was a kind of 
civility that went along with it. 


Riess: Gutterson and a William Garren were involved in San Francisco 
Federal Savings and Loan. 

Ratcliff: So were Hasten and Hurd. Hasten and Hurd were on the founding 
group of San Francisco Federal. 

Riess: Did it have the same kind of reputation? 
Ratcliff: I think so. Hasten and Hurd had the same idea. 
Riess: Was Gutterson actively involved, do you think? 

Ratcliff: Well, I actually didn't know that Gutterson was involved. It 
is quite possible that he was. 

Riess: Was William Garren well-known? 

Ratcliff: I don't know Garren. Was he an architect? 

Riess: Yes, he was an architect. He worked with Irving Horrow. 

Scott Hayrnond. and Revamping the Office^/ 

Riess: Now, what were you going to be able to do about Scott Haymond, 
or what did you do about Scott Haymond? 

Ratcliff: Well, we then decided to set up a partnership. I wanted to 

work with my father, that's what I really wanted to do, and he 
didn't want to get rid of Scott Haymond. Scott Haymond had no 
place to go, really. He had worked with my father for twenty 
or more years, and he had, in effect, been the office. 

Hy father appreciated his loyalty. He had done everything 
for the last ten years or so before the war ended. He was 
accustomed to doing everything: writing specifications, doing 
all the designs, doing all the supervision- -doing the whole 
show. He was a very bright guy. He had a good mind and 
probably knew more about the building code than the building 
inspectors. He knew a lot about materials. He had done enough 
supervision so that he was a very good supervisor. He really 
knew what to look for when he went out on a job, the troubles 




and problems. He was a pretty good engineer. Any small 
project, he could easily do the engineering. 

He had a good practical approach to building. He could 
sketch well. He did a lot of things very well. Maybe in his 
earlier years he spent more time on design, but he worked 
himself into the position where he really didn't spend much 
time on design. Once he got a floor plan that satisfied 
somebody, he just put a house on it. That was the end. There 
wasn't much concern about refinements in design. As a matter 
of fact, he was unhappy when 1 would spend time studying ideas 
or did detailing which looked complicated. He was anxious for 
simple solutions. 1 guess there's a place for that kind of 
thing. It doesn't produce good architecture. It produces very 
pedestrian buildings, certainly, and that's about it. He had a 
background in classical work, so he knew quite a bit about 
Renaissance buildings. He had his own system of detailing, 
which he understood well. He knew how to work with stone. He 
knew how to work with brick, and he knew a lot of things that I 
didn't know anything about. 

When I got there, they had Fernwald and no other work in 
the office, except connections with churches. Scott Haymond 
was a Congregational parishioner, and he knew a great many 
church people. His wife was in Plymouth House at the First 
Congregational Church, and I think she was a leader of a team 
there. They had been doing alterations and fix-ups and all 
kinds of little projects for churches. They had a whole wealth 
of little contacts with different churches all around, from the 
Piedmont Community Church to the Congregational and Baptist 
churches in Berkeley and Oakland. 

You mean they were working on all of these churches? 

Whenever a project came along they were generally consulted, so 
they had a sort of a clientele of people involved with 
churches. At about that time there were changes at Mills 
College. Dr. Reinhardt had gone, and there was a new group of 
people in charge. The board decided to change architects and 
spread the work around. That was very disappointing to my 
father. Mills College had been the high point of his career. 

The Legacy of Church Architectural Work 

Ratcliff: After the Depression things had changed, and they finally had a 
parting of the ways, which was traumatic. They still had, 




however, two other clients who they liked. One was the Pacific 
School of Religion [PSR] . My father had done the original 
plans for all the original buildings there. He expected that 
there would be other things coming. They were considering a 
chapel. It was a kind of a dormant legacy. Nothing was 
happening when I got there . 

Then there was the Baptist Divinity School. They wanted 
to build an administration building, a chapel and a new 
library, as a matter of fact. They also wanted to fix up old 
Hobart Hall, which Julia Morgan had designed a long time ago. 

Is that in Berkeley? 

Ratcliff: Yes, on Dwight Way at Hillegass. 

Riess: So there were these two big jobs. 

Ratcliff: One, really. Nothing materialized at PSR right away. 

The office had been in the American Trust Building. When 
I arrived, they were still sorting through the material they 
had taken out of that office and were setting up in the back of 
the Fidelity Savings and Loan Building. Scott was the only 
person there, with a big pile of records, most of which we 
threw away. (And I'm sorry we did, because there were a lot of 
nice things that got thrown out.) Scott and I sat in that 
office for a while, during the course of the Fernwald project. 

After the Fernwald project was over, the Baptist Divinity 
School people came and said they wanted to go ahead with an 
administration building. It seems that they had approached the 
office about this sometime previously, and some sketches had 
been made. There was a concept that had been developed. Dr. 
Fleming was running the Baptist Divinity School at that point. 
He thought modern architecture was an invention of the devil. 
He wanted everything to come out of a book, and he had the 
book. Essentially that's what did happen. I participated in 
the drawings for that. Then we came to the library, which 
hadn't been studied before. We made a few changes in that, 
which I thought were a little better. These two buildings kept 
us going and provided some money. It was a fairly good-sized 

This is in the forties, now? 

Ratcliff: Yes, this was in the forties. 


Riess: When it came to designing the library, who picked up the 

pencil? You or Scott? How did you work out who was doing 

Ratcliff: Scott and I both worked on that project. There were not too 

many projects we both worked on, as it turned out. Those were 
inherited projects, and on the inherited projects I worked with 

Residential Work, the Fourth Dimension and the Client 





What I was out doing was trying to get work that I could do 
myself, so I pretty quickly began to get little houses to do. 
Nothing very great [laughing], but good little houses. 

What's wrong with houses? 
thing about houses? 

Do houses not pay? Is that the 

Well, it sometimes takes a lot of time to make a ten dollar 
decision. This was a hard job sometimes. When your fee is 
based on percentage, it doesn't give you, really, very much. 
If you do all the work yourself, you can come out. You can't 
come out if you hire somebody, or unless it's a pretty fancy 
house, or unless you have an awfully well-organized office. If 
you have much overhead, it just doesn't work. 

A house, like other small things it's a one-man job, 
really. One thing that's important to understand is to make it 
work financially. There has to be a working relationship where 
the scale of the project and the number of people involved in 
the work are balanced. 

Well, you were still fairly small-scale. 

Oh, yeah, we were small-scale, and it worked. Actually, we did 
all right. We didn't do wonderfully well, but we did pretty 

Riess: You did Madi Bacon's house in 1947. 

Ratcliff: Yes. Scott didn't have anything to do with the design, but he 
did advise me on things that I needed to know. As I have said, 
he was a practical man, and he knew a great many things. I 
don't underrate the concept of being practical. 


Riess: Well, isn't this what you were learning about and practicing 
yourself, during the war, being practical? 

Ratcliff: Oh, yeah. It was learning how to manage more than being 
practical. Practical in a different sense. 

Riess: Was there anything that you carried into your architecture of 
this notion of having one bolt that serves all purposes? Did 
you have that kind of practicality in the back of your mind 
when you came to design postwar? 

Ratcliff: You always learn something, but not too much was applicable. 

The effort for simplicity in the war was to solve an inventory 
problem in the field and to streamline production at home. 1 
did learn some things about administering a large office. 

Riess: Well, I was also asking whether you thought in modular terms 
more. Like Gropius, and the Bauhaus? 

Ratcliff: Yes, but it was a completely different set of priorities in 

Gropius 's case. The SeaBees were making an erector set with as 
few parts as possible. How it looked made no difference. 

Riess: Whereas Gropius was doing it as a sort of conceptual model? 

Ratcliff: Gropius was making a place to live. How it looked made a 

difference. There was nothing aesthetic about what the SeaBees 

Riess: I'm just taking you off on a couple of little tangents. I 

wondered, when you were thinking about houses, what you had in 
your mind? Who were your heroes? What kind of architecture 
had you been seeing that you wanted to be doing here, when you 
thought about houses? 

Ratcliff: Well, I don't think I followed the pattern a lot of people did 
at that time, because actually although I never studied with 
Frank Lloyd Wright, he was one of my heroes. Gropius was 
intellectually very stimulating to me, but I never really felt 
that I would be comfortable in one of his houses. I felt as 
though architecture had a fourth dimension that Gropius didn't 
somehow explore . 

Riess: The fourth dimension being comfort? 

Ratcliff: Yes. The fourth dimension being warmth and comfort and a sense 
of location, things that related to nature, your garden. --not 
really just an abstract space frame done so that it makes a 
beautiful pattern, which could be built anywhere for anybody. 


I felt that there was something personal missing, really, in 
the whole modern movement . 

As a matter of fact, 1 think this was intentionally 
excluded. I think people thought that they had to go back to 
base one, to start fresh with the most basic necessary 
elements. This usually resulted in flat-roofed, rectangular 
boxes with great care given to proportions, location of window, 
generally with white plaster walls. 1 felt there were some 
values being lost in the strictly Bauhaus kind of suggestions. 
I didn't really dislike what I saw, but I felt there was an 
element missing. Oversimplification seemed unnatural, to be an 
unnecessary discipline. 

The houses I am thinking of were shell assemblies of 
interesting cube-shaped rooms. All the warmth of detail and 
color was left to the furniture supplied by the owner. The 
attitude was, "We're simply giving him a place to live. He'll 
bring all that with him. When he gets through with our 
architecture, and what he puts into it, he'll have the things 
that completely satisfy his soul. But if we try to satisfy his 
soul in the beginning we're going to miss, because we don't 
understand his soul that well." 

Riess: What architects out here would you say were exponents of this? 

Ratcliff: Neutra was one in Los Angeles, and Don Olsen is in Berkeley. 

Both did beautifully thought out work. It's not that it isn't 
well done. It's just that I don't think it does everything, 
and I was bothered by the sameness . 

I remember putting a tile roof on a project one time and 
being told, "My God," by Henry Hill, "What are you doing?!" 
[laughter] Henry and I were very close friends. I liked what 
Henry did. As a matter of fact, Henry went a little beyond 
what I have just describedhe couldn't let a thing go. He'd 
just keep working, and all kinds of little details and ideas 
would come out, which I thought was pretty good. He did very 
nice residential work with lots of interesting ideas. 

Things like a tile roof, for example, were thought of as 
decadent, identified with an old culture, Spain or Mexico, not 
part of our contemporary culture. You were thinking in the 
past, not the present or future. I heard this but could not 
completely agree. I think some of the guys who accepted this 
strict discipline probably did better-coordinated work than I 
did. I thought that they accomplished this in part by not 
exploring opportunities. By the standards and goals they set. 
I've never been that sure or been able to find a design formula 


that I could reuse time after time. I always started from 
scratch with the client and the site. 

Riess: Well, of course, if it's a residence, how are you supposed to 
think it through? It's the client who should, in a way. 

Ratcliff: I was going to say, one thing I think is terribly important is 
to listen to the person that you're working for. I don't think 
of an architect as a free artist, using only the colors he 
wants. He's got to listen to the people for whom he's doing 
the project. They're going to live in it, and it's their 
thing. You're setting up a design for their living, and I 
think architects should recognize this as a responsibility. 

I felt always, from the beginning, if the owner didn't 
work pretty hard with me, we weren't going to get there. We 
really had to know each other pretty well. We had to detail 
the thing out so that it was understood. That doesn't always 
lead to a winning design. That sometimes leads you to a 
comfortable design which doesn't really do everything it should 
do. Sometimes you have a client who is really concerned about 
the overall feeling of the building. If the overall concept is 
very close to your idea, you have a much better chance to do 
something that comes out really well. I've never felt, I 
guess, that it was appropriate to insist on some things beyond 
a certain point. If they understand what they're doing, it may 
be okay. Also, different designers in the office have created 
a design trail that's hard to follow. 

On residential work I really preferred working in wood. I 
was very impressed by people like Maybeck and Gutterson, Thomas 
and Wright and the Greene brothers, and boys like that. To me, 
in California, those were the people who were doing things in a 
way that I felt very comfortable with and enjoyed. 

Riess: When people came to Ratcliff, Haymond & Ratcliff, weren't they 
still thinking Mediterranean and stucco and so on? 

Ratcliff: Well, not when they came to see me. 

Riess: That must have taken a while, to separate yourself out. 

Ratcliff: Yes, a little while. 

Riess: That didn't just happen in the forties. 

Ratcliff: Well, I would say it really began right away. You couldn't get 
beyond the first conversation without revealing who you were. 
Though the projects were small, and few, we didn't start off 


with a misconception. If they wanted a house by Scott, they 
came to him, and Scott did them in record time. 

Riess: What about your dad? 

Ratcliff: He worked hard on the chapel for the Baptist Divinity School. 

After that, he didn't do anything of that sort. As a matter of 
fact, he didn't spend very much time in the office. 

Ratcliff & Ratcliff. 1953--The Pacific School of Religion 

Ratcliff: He came in one day and said, "I'm not spending enough time to 
earn a salary, and so I don't want any more money out of the 
office." So he didn't take any more money out of the office. 
Then finally, in '53, it was time to end the partnership. By 
that time, I was getting enough work, so I wanted some help. 
Scott didn't want any help because he thought it was 
inefficient, you had to make out forms for the IRS, and you had 
to train new people, and he'd have responsibilities that he 
didn't want. So I thought that was about where we should 
separate. My father really didn't want to go on after that. 

Riess: That was what you had always wanted it to be, Ratcliff & 

Ratcliff: Well, that's what I really wanted it to be, and I knew when I 
entered the first partnership that it wasn't going to be for 
very long. I really knew what Scott was interested in doing, 
and I didn't want to prevent him from doing it. But because he 
was there, there was really no choice. I did also know that he 
was very good on the mechanical aspects of building, that he 
knew a great deal about that and that I could learn something 
from him, which I did. 

Riess: Murray [Slama] was added first? 

Ratcliff: That's right. We added Murray. He came from [Ward] 

McSweeney's office as a draftsman, 
left. I think it was in '53. 

He came after Scott had 

Riess: Were you still in the Fidelity Building? 

Ratcliff: No, we moved out of the Fidelity Building after the Fernwald 
project into what was then known as the Lester Hink Building, 


on the corner of Durant and Shattuck. It was a two-story 
building that my father's office had designed. They only built 
two stories and a basement, but they had designed it for six 
stories, which of course didn't work after the earthquake laws 
came into effect. We were on the second floor in that 
building. We had a small office, two rooms and a little 

Riess: You added a woman? 

Ratcliff: Yes, and the reason we added Barbara Baird is, I thought she 
would be good, that she could draw and she could type! I 
thought this was so great [laughing] , somebody who could type 
the specs. I typed my own specs before that. I wasn't a very 
good typist, and sometimes when I had a long spec to do I'd 
send it out to get it typed by a professional typist. Letters 
and short specs we always typed in the office. 

In any case, this started a new epoch when this happened. 
Our breakup with Haymond came when the Pacific School of 
Religion said they wanted to build a chapel, and they wanted to 
interview architects. We had done a lot of studies on chapels 
for them over the years , and we had already done a lot of 
preliminary work on this project, and my father felt we should 
get the job. He and Scott were unhappy that they weren't just 
asked to come and design the building. We had a discussion 
about this. Scott thought it was okay to be interviewed. He 
was unhappy about it, too, but he wanted to be interviewed. My 
father didn't want to be interviewed. He knew everybody that 
was on the board, and he thought it would be very embarrassing 
to go up and be interviewed. So he declined. 

Riess: How did you feel? 

Ratcliff: I felt that we should be interviewed, and I wanted to be 

involved in the interview. He said, "Well, okay. You can be 
interviewed. You go and be interviewed." But I didn't want to 
go with Scott Haymond, because I had seen the sketches that 
were already made. I thought it shouldn't be those. It would 
be a very prominent building, and I felt that my career was at 
stake. So I told my father, "I've decided it's time we 
separate. We should write a letter to the Pacific School of 
Religion and tell them that we're separating, and that we 
therefore should not be interviewed." 

We met on a Saturday morning, and poor Scott really had a 
terrible time accepting it. As a matter of fact, he never 
really got over the shock. It was too bad. I was sorry, but 
it had to happen. Life goes on, and you just can't always 


satisfy every possible problem. Anyway, we did separate. The 
school [PSR] was surprised by that. I didn't ever tell them 
what happened, and I don't know if Scott did. 

Then we set up a new firm called Ratcliff & Ratcliff , and 
they asked if Ratcliff & Ratcliff would like to be interviewed. 
My father said he didn't want to, and I said I would like to go 
alone. So he said, "Okay, you can go." It looked like a 
wonderful opportunity. It was my first experience on a large 
job, though I somehow felt in my bones that it was a fishing 
expedition, and I didn't have the right tackle. But damn it 
all, it was a chance to start. I had to do it. 

So with no political know-how, I talked to them about what 
I thought architecture was and what ought to happen in their 
chapel. I took along some examples of the kind of architecture 
that I thought was good architecture- -not Gothic. Of course, I 
got a very nice reception. They were very pleasant. I can 
still remember old Charlie Brock, sitting there talking about 
things: "Well, now, do you really think this?" 

They were not prepared for a contemporary approach. They 
were really thinking of pseudo-Gothic like the rest of the 
campus. I got a lot of questions about this, and I ended up 
defending modern architecture. Anyway, I didn't get the job. 
They gave it to Ernest Born. You know the story about that, 

Riess: No, tell me. 

Ratcliff: The way I heard it was that after they hired him, Ernest Born 
came over and listened to them very carefully at a meeting in 
which they told him what they wanted to do. He met the key 
people. He's a nice guy and a very affable guy. He made a 
good impression. He went home, and in about six weeks or so he 
came back with enough drawings to cover the walls of their 
library. Big sketches, complete concepts, everything. I 
thought it was a very good building, but it was not Gothic. It 
had a flat roof, had some exciting shapes and forms. He was a 
wonderful draftsman. He could make a pastel drawing like you 
never saw. He just did these things up. He took them over and 
hung them up in front of the Pacific School board of directors. 

I was told that they all went around and looked at them as 
though they were in the deYoung Museum, I guess --not really 
relating at all. [laughing] I understand that there were very 
few questions, and finally Born left. Stuart Anderson, who was 
president of PSR at that time, was instructed to write a letter 
to Born saying that they were unable to accept the concept and 


they felt that his views and theirs were so divergent that it 
would be better to terminate the agreement and pay him for his 
drawings, which they did. This absolutely infuriated Born. So 
he had them displayed at the San Francisco Museum where they 
were well received. The AIA wrote a letter to the school, and 
different people, other than Born, wrote in his support. 

Riess: How about Sproul? Sproul was involved with the place. 

Ratcliff: He was on the board, yes. I don't know what all Sproul's views 
were. It was a sensitive issue, and I didn't really ever go 
back and cross-examine people on what they thought. 

Anyway, so then they hired a man who was on their board, 
an architect from Los Angeles, whose name escapes me. He 
designed the building that they've got now. It is all right, 
but it's not really an exciting thing such as Bern's would have 
been. I tell you, Born's chapel would have been a building 
people would come to see. It's really too bad. Anyway, that 
began a new era for me . 

The Of f ice- -Interviewing Draftsmen. 1950s 





Did you ever bring Evelyn into the office? 

She always consulted on gardens. She didn't do any 
architecture. She graduated in architecture and felt 
uncomfortable with engineering and with structure. She was 
interested in design, and she has strong views on design and 
very good ideas. As a matter of fact, she was a very good 
student. She was a better student than I was, and she would 
have been an even better student if she hadn't known me, 

What about Barbara Baird who was the drafting typist? 
didn't stick around for long, either? 


No, I've forgotten what happened, but she left shortly after 
Murray came. Murray didn't know a great deal, but Murray was a 
fast learner. 

How do you interview a new person? Everyone says the new 
graduates know nothing. So how do you know which of these 
ignorant souls is going to become good material? 


Ratcliff: Oh, you don't. Like when you go fishing, you go for a 

steelhead but you don't know what you're going to catch. You 
don't know a tenth as much at the end of an interview as you do 
at the end of the first three or four days of working with the 
person. Nothing substitutes for actually doing it. You can 
get something from references, when you call a person up who 
worked with the person and ask them questions about how they 
worked and what they did and work habits, what they're good at 
and what they aren't good at. You get, sometimes, more 
accurate information that way than you do actually talking to 

Talking to a person, you get a sense of whether you can 
work with them, how open they are, how they answer questions, 
how they come forth, how they explain themselves. And they 
demonstrate their work, how well they draw. It's hard to 
tell- -a lot of times when a person claims they're a designer 
and they show you a building, and you ask, "What was your role 
in this?" "Well, my role was to design it." Then you talk to 
the reference and you find out this role was to work on the 
design, but you may not know who made the key decisions, how 
effective this person was. 

Murray Slama and Burns Cadwalader 

Ratcliff: I found people very valuable in different ways. I found Murray 
very valuable in many ways. Not as much from a design point of 
view as from his ability to organize his work, his practical 
knowledge, and his ability to think things through. I felt 
very confident, when he had done something, that it would work, 
that there wasn't some hard decision that he had avoided. 

A kind of a problem you find a lot of people have is that 
they get to a place and they get stuck. They can't quite 
figure it out so they delay the decision until they solve 
something else. Then they bypass it and forget to come back. 
This is a typical kind of difficulty and one that's a pretty 
bad sandtrap. You can find yourself in trouble even after the 
job is finished, having not found some key little detail that 
wasn't quite completed because some information wasn't there at 
the time and so it somehow didn't get done. Murray seldom, if 
ever, did that. He was very thorough, and he insisted on this 
kind of work from the people who worked with him. 

I was not as comfortable with his design ideas as I was 
with Burns Cadwalader's. However, neither I, nor Burns, nor 


any of us, were really original thinkers, inventing new ways, 
on the cutting edge. 

Jules Kliot. and the Round Firehouse on The Alameda 

Ratcliff : One guy we had on the staff that I felt had wonderful ideas and 
was very original was a fellow named Jules Kliot. He was with 
us for quite a long time. For example, when we did Firehouse 
#4 at Marin and The Alameda, he was on staff, and he worked on 
that. Really, the idea of the wall of columns was his idea. 
And Burns put in time on that. We all worked on it. It was an 
interesting building for us. It was interesting because it is 
the result of the coordinated work of all of us. 

When we got the project, the city council gave us a 
program that was too large for the site. It was going to be a 
three -engine company, which meant, in those days, that there 
had to be room for twenty-one people to sleep on the site-- 
seven people per engine. In addition to the three engines 
there would be a chief's car and one or two other vehicles, and 
the building would just fill the little triangular site. I 
made a sketch showing what would have to happen. You either 
had to fill the site, or you had to have a multistory building, 
which you can't do with a firehouse. 

We were really kind of stuck. People were objecting. The 
neighbors thought that it was a permanent park. When Mason- 
McDuffie did the project, they had a sales office right down in 
the little triangle. 

Riess: What do you mean, "did the project?" 

Ratcliff: Well, when they developed the Solano area, they had a sales 

office in the triangle. When they finished the project, they 
gave the little triangle to the city and told the neighbors 
that it would be left as a neighborhood park. 

Riess: So the neighborhood objected. 

Ratcliff: Yes, they did. They put up a strong protest. They said, "The 
park was given to us, and we don't want you to put anything on 
it. It's going to be trees and nothing else," except the 
newspaper folding stand, which was only used by the newspaper 
boys . 


The project was stopped, and there were hearings before 
the council. They didn't get anywhere, so they finally put it 
on the ballot, to vote on it. Well, of course, it passed on 
the ballot, but I voted against it. I thought it was a bad 
idea. I agreed with the neighbors that that should not be 
there. In the meantime, the city had gone around to try to 
find another site for the firehouse, and they couldn't find 
one. They had to build next to some neighbor, you know. Each 
one was equally bad from the neighborhood point of view. 
Still, the city had to have a firehouse, because to get a fire 
rating in the city, they had to have a firehouse in that 

The neighbors said, "Well, why don't you put it on Solano 
Avenue in the commercial district? We don't care about that." 
They couldn't find a site they liked over there, so they just 
decided to put it on the ballot. It passed on the ballot. 

In the meantime, the fire chief died, and the new fire 
chief, Chet Holler, came along and changed the whole concept. 
The concept was to buy engines from American La France that 
would have enough equipment on them to serve twenty-one men, 
but only have seven men on each site, because most of the fires 
are little, and seven men can take care of them. Then to 
provide station wagons, and if they need more people bring them 
in from outside. 

Well, a one -engine company with seven people on- site is 
much smaller. Then the city said, "Well, okay, but now you 
can't cut any major trees." So then we started drawing circles 
to show where we'd have space on the site. What do you put on 
a triangular site? was a big question. We struggled with that 
for a while until we finally started drawing the circles, which 
worked with the triangular site and saved the trees. Then 
Jules came up with the idea, "Let's make columns. They're like 
trees anyway. We'll just put in glass, and concrete columns." 
[pounding the table with his fist] Boy, that was a good idea! 

We made a model without telling the city, and I invited 
the fire chief and the city manager over to see it. When they 
came into the office I said, "Okay, now you're going into the 
conference room. I want you to promise to say nothing for the 
first three or four minutes. I want to explain this concept 
first." I explained that it was difficult to put a building on 
a triangular site that wouldn't just destroy the site. To save 
the trees, we had these spaces to work in. On top of all of 
that, we could make a round building more serviceable than a 
rectangular building. We could make it better, and it would be 









less of a problem for the neighbors. It would be a better 
looking thing, and it would fit the site. 

Well, they couldn't agree to any of those things at first. 
Chet Holler said, "Yeah, I like the idea that it can be made 
better, but boy, you're going to have to show me how." And I 
said, "Okay, we're prepared to do that." We went with him to 
one of his stations. It was a rectangle, and all the equipment 
was stored on the sides of the trucks. When they work on the 
trucks they have to take it off, and there's no space to work. 
In a round building, you put the truck in the middle, and 
there's space all around it. So we agreed to design him a 
workshop on wheels, which had a bench and had all the tools and 
stuff and could move around the engine. 

It was finally accepted. The only person on the council 
who really couldn't bear what it looked like was John De fionis. 
It was not a unanimous decision. John De Bonis voted against 
it because he felt a round firehouse was a ridiculous concept. 
I used to see John, and every time I'd see him, from a block 
away, he'd go like this, [gestures] He had a pretty good sense 
of humor, and he'd make this round symbol with his hands 
together, [laughter] We had a wonderful time doing it. T.Y. 
Lin was the structural engineer. I said, "T.Y., how do you 
hold a round building together?" He says, "Simple! Nothing, 
to it--simple. You just put a cable around it." So we just 
put a cable around it. 

He was really part of the team? 


Was Jules Kliot in on the presentation, or was he very minor? 

Oh, he worked on the drawings, and he-- 

When you presented it to the city, was he in on the 

No, unfortunately I wasn't that sophisticated in those days. I 
made all of the presentations. He might have been there. 

I was interested in the protocol. 

Today I wouldn't do it that way, I would take with me the key 
team members, but I didn't used to do that. However, I gave 
him credit for his ideas to the council at that time. 


Why did he leave? 


Ratcliff: Well, I don't know why he left. It was a funny thing. He left 
architecture. He became interested in light, and he became 
interested in sound. He became interested in movies. He went 
down and rented a garage on San Pablo Avenue and set up this 
room with a tower in the middle. On top of the tower there 
were about six different slide machines, and maybe a movie 
machine, shining on the walls. He had sheetrock on all the 
walls, they all acted as screens. 


Then they had all this amplified music. You really 
couldn't talk to anybody at the table. When you came in, you 
bought a pitcher of beer- -it was only sold by the pitcher. 
They had pretzels to go with it. I don't think they made 
sandwiches, but there were other things to eat. The theory 
was, you just went in there and you were exposed to this wild 
light show, slides, movies, and terribly loud music. That was 
one of the things he did. The other thing was his wife became 
interested in lace. 

Riess: That's Katie Kliot, yes. That's right, I wondered. 

Ratcliff: "Lacis," they call it [the store]. Do you know her? She was a 
nice woman. Anyway, they started that and he put in a lot of 
time on that. I think that she probably is more completely 
involved in that than Jules is. I haven't talked to Jules for 
quite a long time. 1 guess he's outgrown the music routine. 
I'm not sure what he's doing. 

Reflections on Bringing in "New Guvs" 

Riess: I was getting at this question of someone who's just come out 
of school. Are they malleable? Can you make anyone into the 
person you need in your firm, or were there people who came in 
that you really had to let go because they never quite took? 

Ratcliff: Well, one or two people I let go because they didn't take. 

They're still around. They're good friends of mine, but they 
just never seemed to be able to put it together. 

Riess: It seems important to be able to let people go and not just 
figure that you can teach them forever. 

Ratcliff: It's a hard thing to do, but I had to do it a few times. 

Everybody I hired wasn't that young, although I didn't really 
get any senior people in the office for quite a long time. I 


never actually thought about it that way, but it might have 
been a mistake. I should have perhaps gotten some really 
senior guys in there in the beginning to give me some more 
perspective on what was possible. 

I never really looked at large buildings as being within 
my grasp, at first. That didn't seem quite possible to me in 
the beginning. My father used to tell me that I was wrong, 
that I should look for larger work, because it's there and you 
can get it. He used to say that the sky's the limit. Don't 
think about that. You can do it. You can always get the help. 
You can always do something. 

The Impetus to Succeed Financially 

Riess: Did you continue those Saturday and Sunday walks with your 

Ratcliff: We did it occasionally, but not on a regular basis. After I 
left home --that was before I got married- -we used to walk a 
lot. Evelyn and I used to walk a lot. 

Actually, when I got going in architecture, 1 was working 
seven days a week. I found it a very demanding job, to make 
ends meet. You see, we got married in '37, and our first child 
was born in '38, one year later, which wasn't the plan. We 
thought maybe we should grow up a little before it happened, 
but nature took over. Having the child was probably one of the 
best things that happened to us. It really made us focus on 
where we were going. Life was no longer a plaything. We had 
responsibilities, and we had to get with it. 

I was fortunate to grow up in a family where my parents 
were pretty well-fixed, but this doesn't build self-confidence. 
I felt terribly nervous until I got to the point where I 
realized I could do it myself. 

Riess: When do you feel that you were there? 

Ratcliff: When we started to have a child I was making money. But I was 
working for other people up to that point, making enough to 
live on but not really enough to live the way I wanted to. I 
wasn't feeling confident yet- -this was in '38. Then, of 
course, the SeaBees came along, and it was okay, but that still 
wasn't what I wanted to do. I was still nervous about whether 
I could make it in architecture. 


After we got going in architecture, I still was grinding 
my teeth at night. It was a very hard job to build up 
clientele, get something going where I felt that I had 
generated the whole ball of wax myself. That took me a while, 
maybe longer than it takes some people, I don't know. 

Riess: When do you think it really fell together, what year? 

Ratcliff: Well, our residential work fell together fairly quickly. 

Toward the end of the 1950s I had six to eight draftsmen, and 
we were doing churches and lots of sorority and fraternity 
extension projects. But I never knew if I was going to go 
broke next month or not. It's a tough business, because you're 
on such a close margin. I didn't have a lot of extra money 
sitting around. I still remember going to Dick Johnson over at 
the Bank of Berkeley when I had eight people working for me, 
and I couldn't meet the payroll. "No problem." He loaned me 
the money, and I began to realize that there's a system which 
you can apply, that bankers are essential partners in business. 
That gave me quite a feeling of support, which I hadn't 

Riess: It gives you much more margin of error. 

Ratcliff: It gives you time to work it out. I didn't have enough time to 
work out my problems; there were delays that were out of my 
control . 

Riess : You were managing the place in that way? You were the one who 
was writing the checks every week. 

Ratcliff: Yes, I wrote the checks and did the bookkeeping. I wrote all 
the checks up until '60. 

Berkeley and UC Friends, and the Flow of Work- -Sororities 

Riess: By that time were you well into your downtown associations? 

You said that you had to figure out a way of bringing the jobs 

Ratcliff: Well, one way I did it was to get involved in a lot of 

activities in town. I was interested in the activities anyway, 
so I got involved in a lot of them. 


Riess: How did that begin? Where did that begin? You graduated with 
good friends at Berkeley, lots of associations that were 
probably good. 

Ratcliff: Oh, yes, I knew a lot of people. I didn't do all those social 
activities strictly for business. I did them because I saw a 
need and thought it was an important thing to do. I did know a 
lot of people in Berkeley. As a matter of fact, I didn't 
really solicit work, in the sense of going out and asking 
people, or being interviewed all the time, or putting myself in 
a position to be interviewed. I got work without really any 
effort. It just seemed to come. 

I guess when it really started to flow was when I began 
remodeling sorority houses. Much of it was not really 
"architecture," it was human habitation. If you look at it 
from the inside out, perhaps it was architecture. But if you 
look at it from outside in, a lot of it was a compromise 
because of the nature of the situation, remodeling. For a 
period of time, our big volume of work was doing housing around 
the campus. Most of the buildings were remodeled buildings or 
additions to buildings. There were few new ones. 

Once it got started, I got to know Ruth Donnelly, who was 
in charge of housing for the University, and [Mary B.] 
Davidson, who was the Dean of Students. Every time a project 
came along they recommended that people come and talk to me 
about it. Through them I got a lot of work going. The 
projects weren't big. They were in the $100,000 to $200,000 
range, not too bad in those days, but they weren't big 

Riess: Wasn't there an office of architects and engineers on campus? 

Ratcliff: Yes, there was. They supervised the work for the University. 
This wasn't University work. 

Riess: But you're saying University people were the ones who 
recommended you? 

Ratcliff: Yes. Well, the Dean of Students was involved in supervising 

the sororities and fraternities and seeing to it that they did 
things the way they were supposed to do. The University would 
have given accreditation to student living groups if they did 
certain things, if they behaved and whatever. They also had 
minimum standards that applied to buildings for these living 
groups. They wanted so many square feet for this and that. 
They had a whole set of standards. 


As a matter of fact, Donnelly had a lot of these things in 
her head. People would have to come to visit her to find out. 
It was verbal communication rather than something she had 
written. After a couple of jobs, I began to know the rules as 
much as she did, and I was able to advise people on what they 
could and could not do. People kept asking, "Why doesn't 
Donnelly write it out?" So I wrote it out, and Donnelly gave 
it wide distribution. I got enough work through this 
connection to keep eight guys going, with the residences and 
other things we had going, for quite a few years. 

I took trouble to try to do things as well as I could, but 
it wasn't stirring stuff for the magazines. 

Riess: Well, you were never given enough money, perhaps, to do 
anything other than the most basic? 

Ratcliff: Money was always a limiting factor, but occasionally I had some 
good opportunities. 

Wurster did the [original] Gamma Phi house. The Gamma 
Phis ran out of room, and they wanted someone else to do the 
addition. Somebody or other on the board- -you know, this very 
often happens when you get to the end of a job, something 
happens. When they asked me, I said, "You know, I think you 
ought to get Bill Wurster." And they said no. I called up 
Wurster 's office and told [Theodore] Bernard! what was going 
on. Anyway, our plan was to add a wing so that you could not 
tell it's not part of the original building. 

Riess: In other words, in the manner of Bill Wurster? 

Ratcliff: Oh, exactly in the manner of that particular building. The 

details were the same. We just followed them. I decided this 
is his building, and it ought to look like his building. 

Then they decided that they weren't satisfied with the 
fireplace, and they wanted to remodel the living room. I 
didn't feel comfortable with this, so I called up Bernardi and 
asked if they would do it. And he said, sure, they would like 
to do it, so they took over on the living room changes. 

Riess: And that was not a problem with the board? 
Ratcliff: No, they understood, and it was not a problem. 


Good Communication with Clients 








Riess : 


You said--l have to pick up on it --"This very often happens 
getting to the end of a job." You're saying that the 
relationship with the architect very often deteriorates? 

I don't want to emphasize "very," but it does happen that 
problems arise that are not resolved, and they don't end up as 
close friends. I've followed a lot of people who have had this 
kind of a problem. 

You haven't had it? 

I had it once. 

Does it have to do mostly with money, do you think? 

Well, probably. Yes, money's usually at the root of most of 
the problems. An extra occurs that they may feel the architect 
is responsible for or should have anticipated. Most of these 
problems are probably the result of poor communication, 
something that happened that wasn't really thoroughly discussed 
and wasn't understood completely by both sides. 

What did you do that was different? 
What did I do that was different? 

How were you hyperconscious of this? 
prevent this problem? 

How did you work to 

The value of communication is something that I am very much 
aware of. I realized at an early stage that it's terribly 
important. I think that some architects may not have the 
patience to really communicate as well as they probably should. 
Recently I've been serving on an arbitration commission, and I 
have noticed that almost every time the problem is the result 
of poor communication. It's a lesson we should all learn. 

The poor communication often comes from the architect's 
attitude about what he is required to communicate- -in other 
words, he feels that it's his job and nobody should question 

Sometimes I think architects get tired of being asked "foolish 
questions." This is the hallmark, I guess, of a prima donna, 
who needs to have somebody to hold him together in some way. 
He can do a certain part of the work, but he's not expert at 



another. In our office today, for example, there are lots of 
people who are very good at the things they do, but they don't 
really do everything equally well. They need to be in an 
office where the things they don't do well can be picked up by 
others. That's one of the virtues of an office. 

I don't think everybody has to do every single thing to 
the same degree of excellence as long as you can organize it so 
that you get the best out of people. You do that through 
communication. I mean, that is the way you run an office. You 
get them together and talk in an up -front way about what's 
going on, where the problems are, why they happen, and how 
you're going to solve them. I think that's not just a lesson 
that architects need to learn. That's a basic human necessity 
in getting along. 

In all of the years when you were the active Ratcliff , were you 
also the active communicator? 

Ratcliff: Well, I was the arbitrator. 

Riess: Arbitrator and communicator are different. 

Ratcliff: They're sometimes the same, too. Arbitration comes after 
communications fail, but arbitration is frequently 
communication and persuasion and understanding. It's a two- 
way street. That's the important thing to realize, that 
communication is a two-way street, and if you don't understand 
that part of it, you can't do it. You've got to listen, to 
communicate . 

Riess: Of course, you're speaking different vocabularies- -architects 
and clients. 

Ratcliff: Yes. That's the other thing about architecture. It turns out 
to be an educational endeavor. You spend an awful lot of time 
trying to teach people something about what it's all about. 
Very few clients come on board that have really studied very 
much architecture and really have a very sensitive way of 
looking at things, or the concept of the total project. That's 
one of the things you almost always face. 

You face a person who is doing it, maybe, for the first 
time, who is dreaming, who's got a lot of uncoordinated ideas. 
To write a program that is a viable program, to organize those 
ideas so that everybody understands them, means that the person 
who's been dreaming has got to make an adjustment, and you've 
got to listen and understand and adjust a little to the dreams. 
That's an important period in the job. 


Riess: Are you talking about in any kind of job? Are you talking 
about in residences? 

Ratcliff: I'm talking about residences. Actually, this is true on any 

One Man's "Comfort"- -Interiors 

Riess: I should think that you would really come a cropper over a word 
like "comfort." When you say "comfort," you might be thinking 
about redwood. I wouldn't. 

Ratcliff: Comfort has to do with space, color, light, and a lot of 

things. As a matter of fact, in our own office we've covered 
up a lot of redwood with white walls. It's light and cheerful; 
the white walls became a useful surface on which drawings could 
be displayed. This was a great improvement. I don't think 
redwood is the only comfortable way to go. 

Riess: A house that I know quite well is the house that Anshen & Allen 
did for Louise Davies. Anshen & Allen designed the interior 
furniture and were insistent upon that. I wondered whether you 
felt so wed to your design that you took on furniture? 

Ratcliff: No. I know that people do that, but I've never designed other 
people's furniture. But we've gotten involved in the choice of 
furniture, and we've gotten involved in, of course, built-in 
furniture. There is always some of that. 

Riess: When you had done the building, you didn't just itch to do the 



Always in doing a house you make a plan showing how the rooms 
will be used, suggesting where things go and what they are. It 
gets to be very important to know that, because if you're going 
to have a piano, you can't have it in front of a window, you've 
got to do it on an inside wall. If you're going to have a 
fireplace, you've got to think about: is that what you want to 
look at, or do you want to look at the view? You do have a 
very clear idea of what kind of furniture would be nice. But 
I've never tried to design movable furniture- -chairs . I 
shouldn't say never. I did it for my own house, but I haven't 
done it for other people. 

You said that you started getting involved downtown. 
YMCA come first? 

Did the 


Ratcliff' Stiles Hall came before the Berkeley Central Y. Stiles Hall 
came first, and then came the Central Y. Then I got involved 
with Lucille Marshall, who was the director of the Council of 
Social Planning in Berkeley. She was quite a character. 


[Interview 5: June 7, 1989 ]## 

Berkeley Municipal League- -Cross for Mayor 

Riess: What I want to know is, one by one, what these Berkeley civic 
groups were doing. 

Ratcliff: Well, okay. I'll start off with the Berkeley Municipal League. 
The Berkeley Municipal League it's a great name. I don't know 
who decided on the name, but it started off because some people 
in Berkeley wanted to change the mayor. The mayor and council 
had been doing things that we didn't all agree were good things 
for Berkeley. Hollis Thompson was city manager. I don't 
remember who was mayor. 

We supported Larry [Laurance] Cross for mayor. Being a 
minister, this raised some questions that I think were 
satisfactorily answered. He was a very good speaker and a very 
likable person and had ideas we agreed with. Loyse Casebolt 
and Kirby Casebolt, who lived across the street, had the first 
meeting in their house. Milt [Milton] Chernin was the chairman 
of the Department of Social Welfare, and Ralph Chaney was a 
plant paleontologist who was the dawn redwood man, and Lyle 
Cook, a lawyer who had always been involved in Berkeley 
politics; Joe Harris, who invented the voting machine, Joe 
Bernal who was a Berkeley lawyer, and a number of other people 
were there. I was treasurer of the campaign. We went out and 
drummed this up, and we won. We felt very smug. For most of 
us it was a first political experience. 

Riess: This was your first plunge into Berkeley politics? 

Ratcliff: Yes, it was the first time I had joined a campaign to elect 

someone, although I had been involved with people on the city 
council on a lot of issues, and the Berkeley Planning 


Department on many issues, so I was very familiar of what went 
on downtown. 

I was unhappy about some of the things that the council 
was doing at that time, particularly the sale of the old 
Southern Pacific Station, which was the only green spot in the 
center of Berkeley, with old palm trees and the fancy old 
Southern Pacific Station. It was right in the middle of 
Shattuck Avenue, where it divides between Center Street and 
University Avenue. "Call me Joe" Harris moved in and ran a 
low-cost men's clothing store. 

Riess: Oh, where there's also a bank now? 

Ratcliff: Yes, there's a bank on that corner now, and it is completely 

filled with buildings all the way up to University Avenue. It 
originally was really kind of a station and a little park. The 
reason the street divided that way was to provide a dead end 
for trains that didn't go any further. They stopped there and 
went back. 

Riess: Who was this guy, Harris? What is his first name again? 
Ratcliff: "Call me Joe" Harris? You never heard of "Call me Joe" Harris? 
Riess: No. 

Ratcliff: Oh, my goodness. "Call me Joe" Harris sold jeans and other 

work clothes and all kinds of things like that. He ran one of 
those bargain basement-type stores, where they had all kinds of 
men's clothes. He was a funny, little, fat man who was very 
jolly- -an aggressive merchandiser. He seemed to do more 
business than anybody in Berkeley, for just a short time. 

Riess: There was a Roos- Atkins building there, too. 

Ratcliff: That's right. They also relocated there. We felt betrayed by 
this darned mayor and council. We were very mad about that. 
We felt that was a terrible thing to do. 

Riess: What I've read about Laurance Cross is that not only was he the 
minister of the Northbrae church, but he was a Socialist. 

Ratcliff: Oh, well, Joe McCarthy said he was a Communist, at one point. 
This is ridiculous. I don't know, maybe he was a Socialist. 
He was a liberal -thinking man, but he wasn't motivated by 
"isms." I think he was simply motivated by what he felt would 
be good for the community, and if it fell in the Democratic 
camp or the Socialist camp or the Republican camp, I don't 


He was thinking about 

think it made much difference to him. 
ideas . 

Riess: Were those good years, then, under him? 

Ratcliff : I thought they were pretty good. He never became a universally 
popular mayor. Later he ran for governor. He did things the 
way the he thought they should be done , and not because they 
followed the party line, although he was a Democrat. He had a 
radio program called "Cross-cuts," and he used to be on the air 
all the time, talking about social problems and his views on 
these things. 

He was an awfully good speaker. He told me that he 
couldn't read a speech. He had to know the subject and think 
on his feet. When he came to give a speech, even a pretty 
important speech, his notes would consist of four or five 
words. That's all. The reason for those four or five words 
was to prompt him, perhaps, on the order in which he should 
bring up these things. He rarely brought a lot of statistics 
to meetings. He must have had a wonderful memory, but he was 
also just a very gifted speaker. 

Riess: That cross -section of Berkeley people who were on the Municipal 
League is heavily weighted with the University. 

Ratcliff: Yes, I think that the Municipal League and its supporters were 
University-oriented people. 

Council of Social Planning and the Problem Populations 

Riess: Now, what was the Council of Social Planning? 

Ratcliff: I'm not sure when it started, but I became involved in that in 
the late forties and early fifties. It was the planning arm of 
the Community Chest, and it represented most of the social 
service agencies. The different agencies would put in their 
requests and their ideas and their suggestions to the Council 
of Social Planning. 

Riess: Was this East Bay or just Berkeley? 

Ratcliff: It was just Berkeley. It was an arm of the Berkeley Community 
Chest. When the United Crusade came along and consolidated the 
community social agencies into a regional system, that wiped 
out the Berkeley Council of Social Planning and Community 








Chest. The thing that was good about the Council and the Chest 
in Berkeley was that it brought together all the local people 
who were concerned about the social issues. It brought 
together the cream of the crop, I'll tell you. It was a good 

You list Molly [Mrs. E.O.] Lawrence. 

Yes, Molly Lawrence was very regular. She attended everything, 
and she was interested in everything. Margaret Hatfield was on 
it. She was one of the great people in Berkeley. John 
Hatfield was a banker. Margaret Hatfield was the daughter of 
Henry Poppic was on it. Henry was a lawyer in 
a longtime friend of mine. We were in the first 
Henry is not living in Berkeley any longer. 

Seldon Smith. 
Berkeley and 
grade together. 

Bob McNary was on it. 
McNary Chapel? 

Yes. Dieter McNary was the one that started the chapel, and 
Bob McNary is his son. Bob was very active in this whole 
thing. Lucille Marshall was the executive director of this. 
She was the only paid employee. Van Dusen Kennedy was on it, 
and is still on many different things around town. It was a 
very constructive group of people. The thing that was good 
about the Chest was that it was a hometown organization. We 
did our own business in our own town. We took care of 
ourselves. We had a very sensitive feeling about where the 
problems were in Berkeley. 

At one point we were wondering: where did the money go? 
We analyzed the clients that went to these various different 
agencies, and we identified what we called the "multiproblem 
family," or the "multiproblem person," the person who was 
served by three or more agencies. We discovered that there 
were not many multiproblem families and yet they used 80 
percent of the total amount of money that was gathered by the 
Chest each year. It was a relatively small group of people. 
You'd find these guys were in and out of jail. They just 
revolved through the system. They used it at a high cost to 
the community. 

How did you get those statistics? 
agency come and do a study? 

Did you have an outside 

No, we didn't. Lucille Marshall and the other people who were 
running the different agencies brought all this information 
together. It was a big surprise to all of us to find out that 


the money was so focused on just a few bad apples. It's a case 
of one bad apple spoiling the whole box. 

Riess: How would you describe those "bad apples?" 

Ratcliff : For one thing, most of them had fairly recently come to 

Berkeley. I think the old-timers in Berkeley had found a 
comfortable way to live and did not need much help. But there 
were people that came in that couldn't find a niche, that were 
just not absorbed by the community, that somehow didn't seem to 
fit very well. The war brought in a lot of people to work in 
the shipyards and other industries. 

Riess: That's that time, just after the war. 

Ratcliff: It was after the war. That's when we were getting all this 
trouble. We didn't have a big minority population prior to 
that. We then got a fairly good-sized minority population. I 
feel as though there's more difficulty with minorities today 
than there was at that time. It was low income. It was lack 
of work. There were no drugs to speak of. That wasn't the 
problem, but a lot of uneducated people out of work coming here 
to get work. This was a town in which there weren't many good 
jobs that didn't require some education, some background. 

Riess: Was there a problem of homelessness that this group had to 

Ratcliff: I don't think there was much of a homeless problem. I suppose 
there always has been a little bit of a problem, but it was not 
identified as a big problem. 

Riess: Did the churches take a social responsibility? 

Ratcliff: Yes, the churches did. They were the principal people who did 
take social responsibility. The YMCA had eighty-eight rooms, 
SRO rooms they call them- -single room occupancy. They had, 
essentially, eighty-eight homeless people living there. The 
churches also were supporting a number of people around town. 

Also, most of these people were nervously unstrung, 
somehow, because of lack of work, because of their position. 
Some of them I think were quite intelligent people. Most of 
them had enough brains to know that they were having trouble. 
The black community, at that time, basically was a pretty solid 
community. I don't think we had a lot of trouble down there, 
not nearly as much as we seem to have generated now. 


Riess: Once you had identified the "bad apples," how did you deal with 

Ratcliff: I don't know of any special changes that we made because of 
that, but it was a really edifying thing to discover that 
that's the way it was. 

Environment ShapinE Lives 

Riess: Do you subscribe to the idea that environment really shapes 

lives? If you could have put them in a nice house of a certain 
kind of design, would they have straightened out? 

Ratcliff: Charles Keeler, coming through, is that what this is? 

Riess: Or more recently Christopher Alexander. 
Ratcliff: Christopher Alexander coming through, yes. 

Well, I guess 1 agree that it might help, but I subscribe 
to the concept that everybody needs help. I think that the 
biggest cause for most of these problems is the breakdown of 
the family, and the people who find themselves in trouble with 
no place to go, no support. I think that is one of the 
principal reasons that people get off -track. 

I think one's environment- -living in a beautiful house 
tends to make people more sensitive to art. Art, I think, has 
got something to do with the good life. It gives one an 
opportunity to appreciate and understand and relate to 
beautiful things, to nature. Being aware of the seasons and 
sensitive to one's environment is a very leveling sort of 
thing. I think people who are sensitive to those things are 
strengthened by it. There's always some relief by being in 
contact with art and beauty. 

Riess: In a way, what you're saying is that, in a very big picture, 
you're in the system, rather than being outside the system. 
You're part of it. 

Ratcliff: Exactly, yeah. If you get that sense of being involved, that 
is a very leveling kind of thing and a great support to a 
person who feels himself in trouble. It's one of the reasons, 
you know, you go for a walk. I used to think of this. I would 



Ratcliff : 



get really disturbed by something and just get out there and go 
for a big hike in the hills. It helped. 

Yesterday I walked on what we call the lower fire trail, 
that starts at the UC Botanical Garden and comes around and 
ties into Panoramic Way. I'll tell you, boy, that's some piece 
of unspoiled real estate. Just the way nature left it. The 
thing that bothers me when I walk in Strawberry Canyon are the 
memories of how it used to be where the stadium is. That was 
probably as fine a piece of nature as you could find on the 
Pacific Coast, with bay trees that were three and four feet in 
diameter, and enormous oak trees and waterfalls, and you name 
it, right on this campus, and they put the darned stadium on 
top of it. But there's a little piece of that still left 
further up the canyon. Well, okay, this is a diversion. 

Okay, so the Council of Social Planning at least was aware of 
what was going on. 

A bunch of people came together who had participated in 
activities in the various different social institutions around 
town. It was just a collection of people that knew all the 
problems and were concerned about them and trying to do 
something about them. I was fortunate to be in there. The 
only reason I guess I got involved in it was because whenever 
they had an architectural problem, I got passed from one to the 
other. I helped them fix this and that, and did many different 
little projects all around Berkeley. 

This started as soon as you came back and joined your father 
and the firm? 

Ratcliff: As soon as I became a Berkeley citizen again, I became 
concerned about this sort of thing. 

Was this a role he had also had? 

Ratcliff: He was very active in civic affairs. He did work with the 
Berkeley Day Nursery. He built their building. He was 
concerned about these things. 

When I agreed to work for the Community Chest, I was given 
a block on Shattuck Avenue to collect money from. Bob Porter, 
who was running the Chest, said, "Well, the first thing you do 
is make your own contribution. Then you go around and collect 
the others." So I went to my old man and said, "Okay, I'm 
coming to you, after I've made my contribution," which I did. 
And he wrote me a check for a thousand dollars. Holy smoke! 
[laughs] I had put in a hundred dollars, or something like 




that, and the total contribution was less than two thousand 
dollars for the whole block. That included some pretty big 
shots in Berkeley. 

I realized that he was extremely generous in terms of his 
feelings about this. I talked to him about it, and that's 
really the way he felt. I don't think he did very much 
architectural work for them, but he made generous contributions 
to them. That was just one. He would do it several times 
during the year. I guess maybe that's where I got the genes 
that started me thinking about that. 

Who was it who started passing you around? Do you associate 
your beginnings as a Berkeley citizen with any particular 
person? Maybe Carol Sibley? 

Veil, Carol came a little later than this, as far as I was 
concerned. Carol was very heavily involved, and Carol's heyday 
came later than this . 

Citizen Involvement. Stiles Hall and the Community Y 



Who, would you say, had that role earlier? 
groups together? 

Who ties all these 

Well, I got involved with the YMCA very early in the game. 
First of all I had been involved with Stiles Hall, which was 
focused more on student activities and some of the teenage 
problems. The Central Y was focused really more on city 
problems and younger people than that. Both of them were 
focused in this direction. I don't know. I just met all these 
people, and I guess if you asked me who- -well, there were some 
mentors I had. 

Riess: Who? 

Ratcliff: Oh, okay, [laughter] Harry Kingman is one. Bill Davis is 
another. Those were Stiles Hall guys. There were several 
other people at Stiles, but I think I'm now singling out the 
ones that I think were most influencing. 

Down at the Central Y, there was Frank Drake, 
know who Frank Drake was . 

You don't 


No, I don't. 


Ratcliff: Frank Drake was the head of the Johnson Gear Company, and he 
became chairman of the board. Ben Rickli was the director. 
They were very good people. 

Riess: Johnson Gear Company? 

Ratcliff: The Johnson Gear Company made deep well turbine pumps for 
farmers out in the valley who were pumping water for their 
irrigating systems. 

Riess: Was it a Berkeley firm? 

Ratcliff: Yes, it was a Berkeley firm. Frank Drake was president of the 
YMCA and one of the great guys in Berkeley. 

Riess: And Ben Rickli? 

Ratcliff: Ben Rickli was a wonderful man. He was the director of the 
Berkeley Y for a long time. 

Then there was Bob Porter, who was the president of the 
Community Savings and Loan in Berkeley. I first knew him when 
he was director of the Community Chest. 

Ratcliff: Berkeley was quite different in those days. 

Riess: And those people probably had quite a different vision of 

Ratcliff: Well, they were all very much involved in the design of 

Berkeley. It's like learning to play music. To get your kids 
to learn the piano long enough to enjoy it, it's a big 
struggle. Once they get to the point where they enjoy it, 
they're involved. 

These guys had gotten to the point where they understood 
this town. They were involved. It hurt them when something 
didn't go right, and they did something about it. 

Lester Hink 

Ratcliff: Lester Hink was one of those movers and shakers. He was 

controversial. Some did not like him. First of all, they 
didn't know him. Secondly, they were, I think, scared of him, 
because he was a big operator in Berkeley. There was the 


University in Berkeley, and then there was Lester Hink. 
[laughter] They were the two big industries in town. 

Lester Hink was a good politician. He was a very good 
businessman, and a successful merchant, and very sensitive to 
social issues. He supported everything in town in a major way. 
You could go to Lester Hink and say, "So-and-so in this 
agency's in real trouble." He would ask, "How much do you 
need?" And he would invariably say, "I'll match you for half 
of it." 

Riess: When you're talking about "So-and-so" in an agency, you mean 
you would be talking about an individual who needed help? 

Ratcliff: No, I mean an agency. But he wanted to know the details, the 
people involved. "Do you need to change some personnel, or 
what's the problem? Can it be resolved? I mean, are we just 
putting money down a rathole?" He would be careful about where 
he put it, but he supported anything he felt was legitimate. 

Riess: That's very interesting. How about [Frank] Spenger? 

Ratcliff: Never got involved. Couldn't get him involved in anything. 
Spenger was a fine guy and a wonderful chef, but didn't get 
involved. We tried to get him involved a number of times but 
didn't get anywhere. 

Permit Appeals Board and BuildinE Codes 

Riess: Okay, let's go on to the Permit Appeals Board. 

Ratcliff: It's actually called the Board of Permit Appeals, and it was 
composed of an architect, an engineer, a builder, and a real 
estate person. The purpose of the board was to hear complaints 
or appeals that people would make, because they felt the code 
was too restrictive as applied to the special conditions of 
their site, or they disagreed with the building inspector's 
interpretation of the code on technical building problems, 
which they felt were unfair or were irrelevant. 

Berkeley, at that time, had its own building code. It was 
one that was drawn up for Berkeley. There was no state code at 
that time. This was when each little city had its own code. 
San Francisco had the most remarkable code you ever saw. 
Berkeley had a kind of a reasonable code. Richmond had a code 


that was written on newspaper, 

It looked like the Sunday 

Riess: What do you mean by "reasonable" in a building code? What do 
you mean by "remarkable" for San Francisco? 

Ratcliff: Well, San Francisco did things their own way. They ignored the 
D.H. Burnham plan to revise the city plan after the 1906 fire 
and went right ahead with their old twenty-five foot lot plan, 
with no firewalls between buildings. Each square block is like 
a layer cake on edge. You start a fire at one end, it'll go 
right through the whole thing. It was a stupid situation. 

Riess: In the case of Berkeley, the codes might have arisen from the 
results of the Berkeley fire in 1923. 

Ratcliff: Well, there was a code in Berkeley before the 1923 fire, but 
events like this do affect the codes. 

Riess: Did your board have a lot of work to do? 

Ratcliff: Not very much. The Planning Commission and the building 

inspector resolved almost all the problems. We had a meeting 
about once a month. We also had a meeting on call if somebody 
was in trouble, but essentially it really basically resolved 
itself into a meeting about once a month. We would hear two or 
three issues. 

Riess: Did you end up making code recommendations, then? 

Ratcliff: Yes, we did. We made recommendations to George Berry, who was 
building inspector at that time, [laughs] 

Riess: Why do you laugh? [laughs] 

Ratcliff: George and I agreed on how to interpret the code. We never had 
any trouble at all on anything. I don't think many other 
people did either. He was a very reasonable guy with a 
constructive attitude toward things. 

We didn't have as many issues to contend with then. For 
example, we didn't have a handicapped code then, and the 
earthquake requirements have become much more restrictive and 
complicated. Now that the C.I.L. [Center for Independent 
Living] group has located in Berkeley and focused on the code, 
they have made many changes which have added cost and 
complexity to construction. Any building you build now has to 
be accessible to handicapped people. I agree with that. But I 


think that complete accessibility is not always practical and 
may be more than they're really justified in asking for. 

Riess: You also probably did not at the time have representation from 
all the parts of the city. 

Ratcliff: No, that's right. I don't think people really knew that they 
could come to the city and get represented. 

Riess: Was that an appointed position, the Permit Appeals? 

Ratcliff: Yes, it was an appointed position. I did it for one term, 
about three years or so. 

Panoramic Hill Improvement Association. Road Committee 

Riess: The Panoramic Improvement Association- -how long has that been 

Ratcliff: It started in about 1946, and it's still going, [laughter] It 
started because the Oakland part of Panoramic Way was not 
developed. It was just a dirt road. There were no houses. It 
was Just open land, and it was clear it was going to be 
developed. The street was very narrow, and we wanted a voice 
in the development. It had been subdivided into twenty- five 
foot lots a long time before. So on the map it looked as 
though there were lots all over the place, all usable. But it 
is a very steep piece of land, and not usable in twenty- five 
foot pieces. Almost all the lots had been sold to people back 
east, where they had been shown a plan without contours next to 
the University. You could get a lot here for practically 
nothing, and it's only a block from the University! Then these 
people would come out and find out what they bought was not 

Riess: I had no idea. It was a scam? Who was the developer? 

Ratcliff: I don't know who actually did that. Anyway, some people began 
to realize the big opportunity. One of them was Judd Boynton. 
Did you ever hear of Judd Boynton? 

Riess: Sure, yes. 

Ratcliff: [laughing] Judd found out that he could buy these twenty -five 
foot lots for about a hundred dollars apiece, or some very 


small amount of money, and he became the biggest land holder on 
the hill. 

Riess: But Judd--did he develop it at all? 

Ratcliff: He eventually developed a lot of it. But there was a fellow 
named Donald MacFarlane , a psychiatrist, who lived at the 
corner of Panoramic where Panoramic takes a big bend and where 
the map showed it continuing into Oakland. Donald MacFarlane 
decided he'd stop all of this, and he bought this kind of dirt 
wagon route , which meant he would block the travel up the 
canyon. It was shown on these maps as a public right-of-way, 
and property had been sold based on the fact that the road was 

Well, Judd bought all the lots on the other side of this, 
and the fight was on. Judd claimed it was a public right-of- 
way and that Donald had no right to claim it as his own 

Riess: Was this after the war? 

Ratcliff: Oh, yes, it was soon after the war. 

Judd and Donald MacFarlane were just fighting mad. Judd 
took out a lawsuit against Donald, and so there was a lawsuit 
pending. The bottom line was that Judd won, but in the 
meantime, Donald didn't roll over easy. The Panoramic Way 
Association was formed, and I was appointed chairman of the 
Road Committee. I wasn't chairman of the Association. 

Riess: The Road Committee sounds like the heart of the matter. 

Ratcliff: Kirby Casebolt was chairman of the Association. He was a very 
mild guy. He was an accountant for Standard Oil, and a very 
easy person. I was appointed chairman of the Road Committee. 
Knowing the way things were going, and the dangers of being 
involved in a big scrap, I told them, okay, I'd accept the job, 
providing I could select the members of the committee. They 

I decided I would select the committee members on a 
geographical basis. So every hundred yards, on alternate sides 
of the street, I chose whoever lived in that house, all the way 
up the hill, starting at the bottom. I got people, some of 
whom I didn't even know, on this committee. But at least they 
were not chosen from a political point of view. They were 
chosen from a geographical point of view, which the Association 
accepted as a concept. Well, there were a couple of 



exceptions: I agreed that Judd and MacFarlane had to be on the 
committee, [laughs] 

The interesting thing was, I got to one old house that had 

just been rented by a Chinese guy, and I went and called on him 

and said, "You've been appointed to be a member of the 

Panoramic Road Committee." His name was T.Y. Lin, and he said 

he'd be glad to serve, [laughing] Well, we had a first meeting 

of this committee at MacFarlane 's house, and as we were 

assembling, everybody was there but T.Y. Finally T.Y. came-- 
and I didn't even know he was an engineer at that point. 

Prior to the meeting, Judd had called me- up and said, 
"What did you put this guy on the committee for? I mean, he's 
a Chinaman. What does he have to offer? He's a renter, 
anyway, et cetera, et cetera." I said, "Look, Judd. I have a 
system. If you don't like it, you don't have to be on it 
yourself. I'm not going to be chairman of the committee unless 
I can do it this way. This is it." He said okay. 

Well, we are at the meeting, and T.Y. comes in. I said, 
"T.Y. , welcome to the committee. I'm awfully glad you're here. 
Have you ever worked on a road before?" "Well," he said, "I 
never worked with a little road." And since the only road in 
China that I knew was the Burma Road, I said, "Don't tell me 
you worked on the Burma Road!" 

"Yes," he said, "I was chief engineer." Well! Everybody 
settled back in their seats, this was a new dimension! 

Then we started walking over the hill. We were trying to 
find a second access to Panoramic Way at this point because we 
thought, "If we're going to develop all this at the top, we've 
got to have a second way out. We can't overload the street 
down there." Judd had already marked off where the second 
access road, he thought, should go. We followed him, and we 
got to a very steep place. We said, "My God, Judd, you can't 
drive a car up that. It's going to take a tractor. You have 
about a forty- five degree angle." 

"Oh, it's no problem. We can do it this way." Judd was 
talking as though he was a great expert. Finally, someone 
said, "Well, T.Y. , what do you think about this?" T.Y. pulls a 
little instrument out of his pocket and looks at it. "Yeah," 
he said, "not very easy, 35 percent grade." [laughing] 

This was all on foot? You met, and then you set off on foot? 

Ratcliff: Yes, we walked over the area on foot. This was the beginning 
of a study by both Berkeley and Oakland which resulted in a 


staked-out right-of-way over to Dwight Way, a proposed 
assessment district which was turned down by a vote of the 
Panoramic people. So we do not have a second access road. But 
this committee still exists. As a matter of fact, they're 
having a meeting next week, and it's concerned now with the 
road. Most of it is concerned with fire and road and things of 
that sort. 

Riess: The quality of the road is awful! 

Ratcliff: Oh, yeah. Of course, that's been a debate in the city forever. 
The city has not, until recently, even done more than patch 
through it. Now, at least, they fixed the two corners. 
Hopefully, they'll work on the intermediate part. But they've 
changed the zoning ordinance and downgraded the potential 
density. They declared it an ES area, which means Emergency 
Study area with special requirements. For example, you now 
have to leave twenty feet between your house and your 
neighbor's house, regardless of what the code says about 
setbacks. It's made some lots impossible. In Oakland you 
can't use a twenty-five foot lot, under the present code. So 
they've had to combine lots and make them fifty feet wide, or 

Riess: Is representation on the Panoramic Road Committee on the same 
basis that you devised? 

Ratcliff: I think not but several of the original members are still 
active . 

Riess: Don't you think there are people up here who would like to lead 
a more secluded life? Maybe it's difficult for them to get 
political, because they like to think they're in a remote 

Ratcliff: Well, there is plenty of politics. We have Pat [Patrick] 

Devaney and Doris Maslach who keep us in the news. I think 
people come up here because it's convenient to the city and 
University. It's got a good view. The narrow, rough street 
and the "Telegraph Avenue" marsh present a problem. It is sort 
of hard to crawl through, [laughs] 

Riess: That's quite an image. 

Ratcliff: When they had the riots in People's Park, the tear gas came 
clear up on the hill. It actually got in our eyes. 


Riess: It strikes me that if this hill had any kind of political clout 
that you would have been able to get a much better road from 
the city. 

Ratcliff: That's true. Maybe it's because Panoramic Way is the longest 
blind street in Berkeley, or because half of it is in Oakland. 
As I say, at one point we almost got a second access road. I 
was very strong for that. We got the city of Berkeley and the 
city of Oakland to agree to cooperate in staking out the road, 
in surveying the road, and estimating the cost, and setting up 
an assessment district so that we could do this. The district 
was going to include everybody from the bottom of Panoramic 
clear up to the top. But it had to go to vote, and they voted 
it down. They voted it down twice. It was a time when the 
estimated price for doing that whole thing was about a hundred 
thousand dollars. So we lost our chance. 

City Commons Club, and Herb Zuckerman 



What's the City Commons Club? 
Is this a social club? 

In 1946 you were on the board. 




It's a social club. It met in the Women's City Club, which is 
now called the Berkeley City Club, a Julia Morgan building down 
on Durant Avenue. It was made up of businessmen and University 
people. It was a little bit like the Town and Gown Club for 
women, but it was for men. It met every Friday at noon. 
Perhaps it was more like the Rotary Club or the Breakfast Club. 

We had talks by various distinguished people. Many of the 
talks were given by members of the club or people that were 
known by members who were active in the University or active in 
the Bay Area. Occasionally out-of-town people, but the 
University provided, I think, most of the speakers. 

Was it exclusive? 

You were asked to join. It was exclusive as far as men were 
concerned. It was a man's club in the beginning. 

As an architect, are you a businessman or a University person? 

As an architect, you're a businessman, perhaps, of unknown 
gender, [laughter] At that time I was just beginning to learn 
about businessmen. 


Ratcliff: Anyway, the City Commons Club was started by a guy named Frank 

Riess: Oh. Another new name. 

Ratcliff: Frank Cornish was a lawyer. He was an old Berkeley citizen, 

and it was an old institution when I joined in 1945. My father 
had been a member for quite a long time. Every Friday noon we 
would walk up Durant Avenue to this club and have lunch and 
listen to the talk. We always joined a fellow named Herb 
Zuckerman, and walked up together. Herb was another wonderful 
person. He was known at that time as the "potato king." The 
Zuckerman family own an island up near Stockton in the delta 
where they produce potatoes. I think they were the biggest 
potato producers in the state. Herb was an accountant. He was 
part of this large family that operated the farm up there . He 
did the accounting work, and he was close to them. 

Herb was in some ways much more liberal than my father 
was, though they were about the same age. He was looking 
ahead, thinking the way a student would think, optimistic, 
open. The jazz hadn't been knocked out of him, he was still in 
there fighting for principles and ideas that to some were 
impractical but had promise for the future. He was for trying 
to change things. He always came with an issue that he wanted 
to talk about. He was just an exciting person to talk to. 

Riess: And it gave you a chance, probably, to get into issues with 
your father that you wouldn't have ordinarily. 

Ratcliff: Oh, yeah. But I didn't have any trouble talking to my old man. 
He put up with my screwy ideas very nicely. He never was 
critical of the fact that I disagreed with him, but he defended 
himself pretty vigorously sometimes. Anyway, there were a lot 
of interesting people in that club, but Herb was one of the 
ones that I enjoyed the most. 

Business Lunches and Service Clubs 

Riess: There were a lot of places where you could eat lunch. Rotary, 
the City Club, the Berkeley Breakfast Club? I mean, how many? 

Ratcliff: I didn't join the Rotary Club until a long time after that. As 
a matter of fact, I first joined a club, because I knew some of 
the people involved, called the Knights of the Round Table, 
which never developed really into what I had hoped it would, 


although I put a lot of energy into trying to get it to do some 
things . 

Riess: What were they? Who were they? 

Ratcliff: They were a group of local people. It's a national service 
club, and it still exists, but it's a much smaller group. 1 
don't know that there's a chapter here anymore, but Jeff Cowan 
was a member. Jeff was a local lawyer. He finally dropped out 
and joined the Rotary Club as I did. 

Riess: What did you think that it could do for the city of Berkeley? 

Ratcliff: Well, most of these service clubs take on things. The Lions 

Club takes on the blind people. The Rotary Club has a budget, 
and every year somewhere between five and ten thousand dollars 
is spent on worthy things around this area. It's a 
conversation group in which people get to hear about what other 
people are doing. I think it's a very healthy thing for 
businessmen and University people to get together, to get to 
know each other and discuss local, regional, and national 
issues . 

Service- -Murray and Burns and AIA Involvement 

Riess: When Murray Slama and Burns Cadwalader joined the firm, did 
they also get involved downtown? 

Ratcliff: They never joined any service clubs, nor did Don when he 
joined. I guess they weren't really motivated to do it. 

Burns became involved in the Oakland Chamber of Commerce, 
was on the People for Open Space board, and was active in other 
organizations. He and Murray gave a lot of time to the AIA, 
and both were chairman of the East Bay chapter. Murray was 
also more completely involved with the construction industry. 
He had a very strong interest in management concerns -- 
construction management and stuff like that. He had a real 
talent for it. He was a very capable guy in this regard. 

Riess: The reason I asked about Murray and Burns is because I was 

interested in whether you tried to make it a policy that the 
members of the firm--. 

Ratcliff: Do that? Well, it was not a mandatory policy, but I did feel 
that somebody in the office ought to become involved in the 


AIA. Murray and Burns both did, and later Don did, too. When 
they did, I decided that that was enough of an effort in that 
direction for our firm. I was doing a lot of pro-bono work and 
felt that we were spending as much time as we should on 
community social issues outside -the firm. So I didn't do it. 

The AIA has become a wonderful organization. Yet one of 
the reasons I didn't originally join was 1 felt it was a very 
self-serving organization in a political way. Today it's a 
different story. The AIA has a major influence on standards of 
excellence in design and integrity. It has an enormous impact 
on the profession as well as the public. Originally, the 
meetings I went to were all sort of focused on legislation that 
would benefit the architects, no talk of the architects' 
mission. While that was important, it was not what I wanted to 

Berkeley Master Planning, and UC's Growth 

Riess: You were busy. Master planning and the Berkeley Waterfront 
Committee sound like two tremendous ones. 

Ratcliff: Well, they weren't tremendous. They took a lot of time, 
though . 

Riess: When was Berkeley master planning? 

Ratcliff: There was a continuing effort that ran through the fifties and 
early sixties. 

Riess: What signs does Berkeley now show of the master plan? 

Ratcliff: Controlling growth was the principal concern. We had a pretty 
standard plan, which separated housing districts into multiple- 
family and single-family and two-family, into commercial 
districts, and an industrial district. 

Riess: This sounds like zoning. 

Ratcliff: Yes. We dealt mostly with the zoning issues, trying to 

establish standards that would lead to reasonable growth. The 
zoning densities and building heights have been reduced more 
since then in a continued effort to protect residential 
character, rightly so. 

Riess: This was the first master plan? 


Ratcliff: No, we were trying to revise the original plan to make it a 
more effective guide to growth, looking at a maximum in the 
neighborhood of 150,000 people. The original plan would permit 
up to 75,000. The circulation element, streets and public 
transit, was established. 

There were lots of conversations about the impact of the 
Caldecott Tunnel on Ashby Avenue and Berkeley. Many of us 
thought that the major traffic from the other side should come 
down to Telegraph and north on Telegraph to Berkeley. 
Telegraph was really the only street that was big enough to 
take the kind of traffic we anticipated. A major interchange 
should be made at Telegraph Avenue and 52nd, or whatever that 
is down there, so that that could happen. 

Well, they didn't have the money, or whatever, and that 
never developed. Then to get public support we had a committee 
with people on both sides of Ashby Avenue and Tunnel Road, and 
you can imagine the self-interest. The thing just broke up in 
a hopelessly disorganized conclusion. And Tunnel Road and 
Ashby Avenue were finally favored as the most direct 

Riess: Was Corwin Mocine the strongest person in Berkeley planning? 

Ratcliff: Yes, I would say he was. He was a very strong planner. He was 
well -liked and a good speaker. He was very effective. 

Riess: But unable to make all the ideal solutions materialize. 

Ratcliff: Well, nobody ever is, but he did some very good things. He was 
the right person for Berkeley at that time. 

Riess: Were you dealing with the University's growth, also, at that 

Ratcliff: Well, that had always been part of the conversation. Every 

time the master plan comes up, the city says the University's 
"got to be stopped." At that time I think there were about 
16,000 or 18,000 students on campus. I've forgotten what the 
maximum was , but we thought in numbers that were closer to that 
than the numbers there are today. 

The Chamber of Commerce has always had a competitive 
attitude toward the University. I think it's because the 
campus gets its marching orders from Sacramento and is 
independent of Berkeley. They feel that they should have more 
input in campus planning and more compensation for shared 
services and city maintenance. I think there should be a more 



clearly defined role between the two. It should have been 
defined a long time ago. There should be some way that this 
could be organized so that these two bodies could live together 
in harmony. It is a two-way street. 

I don't blame the University for having trouble with the 
city. I also don't blame the city, in a way, for having 
trouble with the University on some issues. 

So do you think it should be worked out at a city level, or a 
state level? 

Ratcliff: I think it's a state and city problem, not just a Berkeley 

campus and city problem. One of the problems with the Berkeley 
campus and the city is that everyone is so close together that 
we need an outside arbitrator. We need a powerful outside 
arbitrator. I don't personally think it's going to work until 
the governor or somebody up there in Sacramento says, "We're 
going to help to resolve this problem." 

Riess: Did groups like Town and Gown Club think that they were going 
to be able to resolve differences? 

Ratcliff: They hoped to create a better understanding, and socially they 
have. The Town and Gown Club is a great organization, in my 

Riess: Whatever these clubs are, they don't represent the town 
anymore . 

Ratcliff: That is true. It's mostly University, as far as Town and Gown 
is concerned. 

The Waterfront Committee, and a Proposal for a New Berkeley 

Riess: I noticed, when I was down at your office the other day, that 
you had drawn up one of the Berkeley waterfront plans. 

Ratcliff: Yes. I was on the Waterfront Committee back in the fifties and 
sixties, and basically interested in developing the waterfront 
into a park and recreation area. The Berkeley Waterfront 
Committee, when I got on it, was just getting over the 
reverberations of the Reber Plan. Do you remember the Reber 




Ratcliff: Well, Reber had the idea that the way to resolve the problems 
of the bay was to make a big dike that would block up the 
Sacramento River and come around in front of the East Bay, 
separating the freshwater from the saltwater areas of the bay. 
Boats could then come in and get rid of their barnacles, 
harbors would be built, and a great maritime industry would 

It was a monumental vision, a manmade concept for this 
whole bay. He was convinced that we had an opportunity here 
that nobody in the world had with all this fresh water coming 
down, and how could we control it. Well, people were not ready 
for that. There were the conservationists who wanted to 
protect the birds and wildlife, and most of all us who thought 
it would destroy the natural beauty of the bay, change the 
ecology, and threaten the delta. 

Riess: The estuaries. 

Ratcliff: All the estuaries and marshes would be gone, and all the flight 
patterns of the birds would be screwed up. Industry would take 
over. So that plan was not adopted. Then came the Santa Fe 
plan. About a thousand-foot band of shoreline was given to the 
Santa Fe , not really too long ago, for their development as a 
transportation corridor. Santa Fe, looking ahead, didn't see 
themselves using it for transportation, so they wanted to 
develop it. 

Riess: It was given to them? 

Ratcliff: I think so. Railroads were given corridors of land in order to 
stimulate growth. 

Riess: So they didn't see themselves developing it, though. 

Ratcliff: Well, they didn't see it being developed as a transportation 
corridor, as it was originally supposed to be. Southern 
Pacific was down there, too, and they had tracks, but Santa Fe 
owned a separate corridor all the way across in front of 
Berkeley and into Richmond. 

Reber was out, and I guess spurred on by some of that 
original thinking, Santa Fe was ready to develop their land for 
something else. Berkeley owned all the property out to the end 
of the Berkeley pier; almost half of Berkeley was under water, 
and Berkeley had big potential, because this was all very 
shallow. The average depth was four to six feet out to the end 
of the pier. It looked like it could easily be used if 


somebody would just find the fill or take down a mountain and 
put it there. 

Riess: Masterful moves, right. 


Ratcliff: Masterful moves. So, Santa Fe hired Victor Gruen to make a 

plan that would justify the development of Santa Fe land, and 
would include a complete concept for the rest of Berkeley, all 
the way out to the end of the pier. 

Riess: Gruen was on the West Coast? 

Ratcliff: Victor Gruen was in Los Angeles. 

They came up with a beautifully delineated, wonderful 
scheme- -shows Berkeley just expanding out with waterways and 
yacht harbors, fountains and a complete new city. Fifty 
percent of Berkeley would be out here. They were making the 
ideal Usonian Village at the expense of the bay. The land 
owned by Santa Fe would become highly important industrial- 
commercial land. The rest of it, the outer side, would be a 
great, new Venice of the north. It was a really very well- 
delineated thing and a beautiful concept. 

So Contini, who was a big designer and at one time one of 
the movers and shakers, and a very good public speaker, came up 
and presented it to the city council, the Waterfront Committee. 
I was absolutely blown by this, because it seemed to us that we 
would kill what's there, damage the bay, and create a 
completely new city, which might be good for somebody but would 
not be good for the people who are here. It was going to 
really damage the views and the natural setting that we have. 


Riess: So you spoke up against it? 

Ratcliff: Yes, several of us did, and toward the end it became a debate 
between me and Contini before the city council. I had the 
advantage, being local. Contini didn't know anybody, and I had 
the support of friends and good conservative -type people who 
were concerned about the ecology of the area. We felt that the 
plan was completely insensitive to the local needs and to a 
logical, slow, thoughtful growth. It would not help the people 
of Berkeley. The council voted, with one exception, against 


So interesting. And that night was the finish of that? 


Ratcliff: Yes, it really was. Contini was absolutely, completely blown 
out of the water. He came out into the hall afterwards, 
completely surprised. 

Riess: But he hadn't a clue, probably, of the feeling of the city. 
Should he have done a study? 

Ratcliff: Well, he had gotten his instructions from Santa Fe. He had not 
come to the city, and he was not prepared for our reaction. We 
didn't argue that it wasn't a beautiful presentation. We were 
impressed by the concept itself, the scale of the proposal, the 
excitement of a water-oriented residential area. That's one 
side of the coin. But the other side of the coin of man 
invading the bay was something we could not live with. 

Riess: Well, he was making a new town. 

Ratcliff: Yes, he was. We didn't want a new town. What we wanted was 
some constructive ideas about the growth of our town. We 
weren't ready to die. We wanted to improve our waterfront. 

Riess: Well done! And didn't you draw up a waterfront plan also? 

Ratcliff: We drew a plan for the yacht harbor area, yes. We drew that 

about the same time that Contini and Victor Gruen were working 
on their big plan. This was a more modest plan, saying, "Well, 
okay, we've already filled this in with garbage. Let's try to 
use it, what we've got. We can never take this stuff out, but 
we'll just stop the growth and make a park out of it, 
essentially. " 

Riess: So it was a golf course. 

Ratcliff: Yeah, a golf course and a park, with the yacht harbor. 

Riess: And with commercial development on the Santa Fe strip. 

Ratcliff: Well, there were alternate schemes, and the city hired Garrett 
Eckbo at one point to give us a plan for crossing the freeway 
in a graceful way, and the development of that outside area. 
The Waterfront Committee recommended that they get a 
consultant, and we recommended Eckbo, who had had quite a bit 
of experience. He met with us quite a number of times and came 
up with a plan. Prior to that, we [Ratcliff & Ratcliff] had 
come up with our plan. Burns worked on that quite a bit. 
Burns was very interested in that. 

Riess: By that time, Save the Bay was certainly in the picture. [Save 
the San Francisco Bay Association begun in 1961.] 


Ratcliff: Oh, yeah, then Sylvia McLaughlin and Kay Kerr got together and 
started that. Sylvia was on the Waterfront Committee, and 
Sylvia was on the Aquatic Park Committee, both. 

Aquatic Park, and the Entrance to Berkeley 

Ratcliff: Then I became chairman of the Aquatic Park Committee. The 

principal problem here was noise. We wanted the state, at that 
time, to include in their development an acoustic wall between 
Aquatic Park and the freeway. And they wouldn't do it. We got 
T.Y. Lin to come and help us make a proposal to put the whole 
thing underground, [laughing] A screwy idea, and it did not 
take. I thought it would work something like one of these 
dirigible hangers, you know, where they put railroad track on 
each side and just move the forms along the railroad track from 
one arch to the next. We had a scheme, whereby you could put 
the whole thing underground and put a park over the top of it. 

Riess: The whole what underground? 

Ratcliff: The whole freeway underground and put a park over the top. As 
seen from Berkeley you wouldn't know there was a freeway there. 
It would be going under a mound. Well, there was objection to 
it because they said it would cut the views out. Objections, 
also, because it was an expensive idea. 

Riess: So this is still the mid- fifties, then. 

Ratcliff: Yeah, we were in the fifties and sixties, someplace. That 

didn't work, but we continued to do things, trying to fix up 
the park. It's never been really very good because of the 
freeway noise. It's an acoustic slum, I'll tell you. It is 
just terrible down there. 

Riess: It's sad, because you think that you can go down and have a 
picnic, but you can't do that. 

Ratcliff: If it was a quiet place, many more people would use it. 

Anyway, we did promote a lot of activity. Peggy Hayes, in a 
memorial to Kenny Hayes, got some money together and put up the 
Kenneth Hayes Boat House to store the Berkeley Rowing Club 
shells. That gave a big boost to the program. We also worked 
on other areas and the details of running and improving the 
park, from paving the road and clearing the algae out of the 
water to helping with the nature center. 









Another project was the beautif ication of University 
Avenue. Where they were proposing the plan for improvement of 
University Avenue, I felt that it was a great opportunity for 
Berkeley to do something significant. I promoted the idea that 
there be no parking on University Avenue, and that the streets 
on the north and south paralleling University should be made 
into commercial streets so that parking and access to the 
commercial buildings could come in from the sides. University 
Avenue could have a wide parkway down the middle with a double 
line of big trees right down the middle of the road. 

If this had happened, the city would have done something 
that compared in scale and in concept with the University. We 
would have just a magnificent entrance to the town. I think it 
would have resulted in much higher land values throughout the 
city. It would have been in keeping with the concept of the 
Athens of the West. You'd have something you could be proud 
of. You could bring people in in a very elegant way. It was a 
time when I think that it might have been done without terrible 
upheaval. When they were really trying to fix things up, it 
would have been a logical time to do it. 

They ended up just putting the strip of greenery down the 

They put in the center strip of lawn, and they put the trees on 
the sides. The problems with the trees on the sides is that 
the trees get in the way of the buildings. People are always 
arguing about their signs being covered up by trees. They are 
crowded, and the roots break the sidewalks. It is better than 
it was, but a compromise solution. The buildings and the trees 
should both have space. 

Were you on a design committee at the time this came up? 

I wasn't on an official committee, but I attended the meetings. 

This was in the sixties, late sixties? 

Yes, it was in the late sixties. 

You could certainly make a good argument for it. 

Was the University involved in that? You'd think they 
would have an interest. 

Ratcliff: No, it was a city project. 


Other Pro Bono Work for the Citv of Berkeley 

Riess: You were also on the Sewer Committee and worked on updating 
University and Shattuck, the Havens Fountain? 

Ratcliff: Yes. The Havens Fountain was in front of the library. Weston 
Havens owned the block across the street from the library. 
Weston is a native son of Berkeley. His father, Frank Havens, 
owned a lot of real estate in town, and Weston has been the 
quiet recipient of what Frank left; He was persuaded that it 
would be a good idea, before the BART went through, to put a 
fountain in to add some beauty to Shattuck Avenue. 

Riess: Were you on these committees for your architectural input, to 
review design schemes? 

Ratcliff: I guess so. In this case, Weston hired Harwell Hamilton 
Harris, a well-known Los Angeles architect, to design the 

Riess: Has it been awkward ever, the distinction between the pro bono 
work and what the firm might actually be hired to do? 

Ratcliff: I don't think it's ever been very awkward. I gave a lot of 
time in those days to agencies that I felt needed help that 
really couldn't afford to buy it. It was a smaller town, and 
it was more personal. You did things because you knew the 
people who were involved and thought they were good ideas. 

Riess: Does your son Kit do this? [Christopher Ratcliff of The 
Ratcliff Architects] 

Ratcliff: Well, he's too busy running the business to do much. However, 
he has always been invloved in some public project. He was on 
the Recreation Commission, President of Stiles Hall, 
neighborhood councils and school committees in Berkeley. 

The Group, and 1MEN9.04 

Riess: To finish with your social associations, as it were, could we 
talk about the two groups that are still important and fun for 
you, The Group, and 1MEN9.04? 

Ratcliff: Peg Gordon wrote a history of The Group, which I don't have in 
front of me. I haven't read it for a long time, so I can't 


really give you very much detail without reading it again. It 
is ten couples . 

Riess: How important has The Group been to you? 

Ratcliff: It is very important. Some of our best friends belong. It is 
a very delightful thing to do. We meet once a month. 

Riess: Don't you give reports on subjects? It's not just simply 

Ratcliff: Oh, yes. Each time we meet one person leads a discussion or 

gives a paper on some subject of his or her choice. Everybody 
does it. It is composed of husbands and wives, and each person 
gives a dissertation in turn. Your turn comes up every twenty 
months or so. It's interesting. Some are lawyers, some are 
University people, some are teaching, and some have retired. 

Riess: And who started "1MEN9.04"? Bill [William F. ] Shepard? 

Ratcliff: The 1MEN9.04 started after Bill died. He started an 

organization called "The Tumey Gulch Marching and Chowder 
Society." That was made up of the friends of Charlie 
Bresnahan, and Charlie Bresnahan was the cat that lived next 
door to Bill Shepard. He and his father and his two brothers 
worked their way through the Depression by digging diatomaceous 
earth out of a canyon west of Mendota, known as Tumey Gulch. 
There's absolutely nothing that grows in Tumey Gulch. It's a 
wasteland, but there's diatomaceous earth there. At that time 
it was thought that if you mixed that with the adobe soil out 
in the valley it would lighten it up and make it better for 

Anyway, they owned a mining claim. They didn't own the 
property. They had to do a hundred dollars worth of work every 
year to maintain the mining claim, so Bill went down to do a 
hundred dollars worth of work each year. One of the deals was 
that we'd go down once a year and establish a camp at Tumey 
Gulch, and stay there for about four days, and do absolutely 
nothing except tell jokes, clean and dirty, and talk about all 
kinds of things, mostly University things, because this was 
made up primarily of University people. 

One of the good things about it was, there were no stage 
props here at all. You had to invent absolutely everything. 
There weren't any swimming holes. There weren't any tennis 
courts. There was nothing in this valley. So you brought your 
kite and horseshoes, books, and things like this. It was fun. 

Seventeen years ago, Bill died suddenly. He had a heart 
attack in his office. He was in the Statewide [University] 


office building on Oxford Street. (He was in charge of student 
affairs for the University.) It happened, I think, in 
February. The Tumey Gulch meeting was always held in April. 
The meeting had already been organized, he had already sent out 
his letters- -cryptic little letters, he had a very good sense 
of humor- -so I invited everyone to come to Mendocino County to 
our place. We've been going to Mendocino ever since. 

Riess: It's only once a year, though, that you're together? 

Ratcliff : We have one summer outing, and recently we have been having a 
winter work party, Thursday through Sunday. We meet at our 
place. We decided that the number on the culvert in front of 
our gate would be a good name for the group, so it's 
"1MEN9.04," which means, "Highway 1, Mendocino County, 9.04 
miles from the south border." That's the typical system for 
numbering culverts . 

Riess: Do they bring their own food? 

Ratcliff: We have a committee that gets the food and drinks. We all 

share in the cooking and clean-up. And then there is Skinny 
Johnson- -you know Bob Johnson? I think he was skinny when he 
was in school. He's in the Class of '28. Anyway, he insists 
that this is a literary organization, so we are now, and have 
been for a long time, a branch of the Louisa May Alcott Society 
as well. We give literary productions called "literary 
contributions." On Saturday evening during our stay, somebody 
acts as the master of ceremonies, and many people contribute. 

Riess: What do you mean, "contribute"? 

Ratcliff: Well, you know, whatever comes to mind. Sometimes they're just 
jokes. Sometimes somebody recites some poetry. Stuff like 
that. Sometimes there are dirty jokes, I have to admit, some 
of which are funny- -not all of them, [laughs] 

Riess: It sounds like a form of the Bohemian Club. 

Ratcliff: Well, it's a little bit like that. It's probably more relaxed 
and less magnificent in scale, but there are some interesting 
people there that certainly would be welcome, I'm sure, at the 
Bohemian Club , and some Bohemians we might accept as members as 

Riess: Have the wives ever tried to fight their way in? 

Ratcliff: No, they never have, and I don't think they probably ever will. 
Contrary to what seems to be popular custom now, that all 


organizations should include both sexes, I think it's really 
kind of a good thing to have something like this. It does 
something different. It gets you back, almost, to college 
days . 

We have two big tents that are sixteen feet square tents, 
and six bunks in each tent. Then we have a bunkhouse, and we 
have what we call a moonviewing house . Then we have a central 
building. We eat and do all that kind of thing in the central 
building, and some people have their own tents, so we can 
accommodate quite a few people. Each tent has its own little 
way of doing things. Kit's in a tent with Bill [William B.] 
Baker- -you know, Bill Baker works for the Statewide University 
administrationand Barry Clagett, at UCSF, and Butch Johnson, 
and others. 

Riess: So the next generation is being brought along? 

Ratcliff: Yes. They all want to keep it going, and the older 

generation's getting to the point where they really can't keep 
up anymore. These younger guys go down and play tennis ten 
hours a day. There is a constant tournament going on. It's 
exciting to see how everybody is so relaxed and doing the 
things they want to do. 

There are some personalities there. Do you know Richie 
Hay? He was in the Class of '36. He was an All -American end 
on the football team and also a basketball player. He was one 
of the best athletes that ever came through Cal, and he has a 
marvelous sense of humor. He was the president of the Big C 
Society, and he's the guy who they always get as master of 
ceremonies whenever they have a meeting. He comes, and he'll 
keep us in stitches the whole time. He was just born with this 
great gift of thinking up funny situations and being able to 
express himself. 

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Robert W. Ratcliff, Burns Cadwalader, and Murray Slama, 3408 Grove 
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Representative Client List 

Alameda County 
Alameda County 

Association lor the 

Mentally Retarded 
Alameda Hospital 
Bank of America 
City of Alameda 
City of Berkeley 
City of Concord 
City of Livermore 
City of Oakland 
Contra Costa County 
East Bay Municipal 

Utility District 
East Bay Regional 

Park District 
Fidelis Company 
Fidelity Savings and 

Loan Association 
Highland Hospital 
Housing Innovations, Inc. 
Humboldt State University 
Inverness Properties. Inc. 
Kaiser Foundation Hospitals 
Lawrence Berkeley 


Matson Navigation Company 
Modesto Memorial Hospital 
Oakland Ensemble Theatre 
Pacific Gas and 

Electric Company 
Pacific School of Religion 
Port of Oakland 
The Rucker Company 
Salinas Valley 

Memorial Hospital 
United States National 

Park Service 
United Stales Post Office 
United States Navy 
University of California: 

Berkeley. San Francisco, 

Santa Cruz 

University of the Pacific 
University Students' 

Cooperative Association 
Wells Fargo Bank 

# C-2349 

Peter G. 
# C-4849 

Syed V. 
# C-3153 

Robert W. 
# C-503 

# C-3975 

[A few pages from a brochure, The Ratcliff 
Architects, ca. 1978] 

Burns Cadwalader, AIA, Principal 

Burns Cadwalader attended the Uni 
versity of California at Berkeley, enter 
ing the field of architecture under the 
apprenticeship system. He has been a 
registered architect since 1957 and a 
principal in The Ratcliff Architects since 

Mr. Cadwalader's experience en 
compasses governmental administra 
tion centers, criminal justice facilities, 
health care facilities, schools and uni 
versities, recreational facilities, housing 
and masterplanning. 

Mr. Cadwalader's career in architec 
ture has been marked with continuous 
involvement with community, environ 
mental and planning issues at both the 
local and national level. His current in 
terests include total design for energy 
conservation in buildings, and provid 
ing a more humane environment for 
handicapped people. 

Representative projects include the 
University of California Berkeley Memo 
rial Stadium Press Box, rehabilitation of 
the historic Hotel Oakland and the mas- 
terplan for Bear Valley winter recrea 
tional development. 

Syed V. Husaln, AIA, Principal 

Syed Husain was educated in Bombay, 
India, and the University of California, 
Berkeley, where he received his Bach 
elor of Architecture degree in 1955. He 
became a registered architect in 1960. 
Since joining the firm in 1964, Mr. 
' Husain guided it into its present position 
:. as one of the top health facilities design 
firms in Northern California. 

Representative clients include private 
' health maintenance organizations such 
as Kaiser Foundation Medical Center, 
f multi-hospital associations such as the 
1 Memorial Hospital Association of Stanis- 
: laus County, and the Veterans Adminis 

tration, Washington, D.C., the world's 
largest health-care facilities client. 

Mr. Husain is a member of the Amer 
ican Institute of Architects and the In 
dian Institute of Architects, an affiliate of 
the Royal Institute of British Architects. 
He has lectured on the impact of Seismic 
Requirements on Hospital Planning for 
University of California Extension, and 
is an oral exam commissioner for the 
California State Board of Architectural 

Don Kasamoto, Principal 

Don Kasamoto received his Bachelor of 
Architecture degree from the University 
of California, Berkeley in 1956 and 
joined the firm in 1962. 

As Principal-in-Charge of Operations. 
Mr. Kasamoto monitors all projects to in 
sure that they are kept within estab 
lished budgets and time schedules. He is 
especially experienced with educa 
tional, research and laboratory facilities 
with complex or unique requirements. 

Mr. Kasamoto led the design of the 
Alameda Police Administration Build 
ing, University of California San Fran 
cisco Radiobiology Laboratory and the 
expansion of the Oakland International 
Airport's Passenger Baggage Terminal. 

He has been a consultant to the Cen 
ter for Independent Living (handi 
capped persons) and a member of the 
Code Review Task Force for the City of 

Robert Ratcliff, AIA, Principal 

Robert Ratcliff received his Bachelor 
of Architecture degree in 1936 from the 
University of California at Berkeley, and 
has been a registered architect since 
1941. He is a member of the National 
Council of Architectural Registration 
As senior partner in the firm. Mr. Rat- 

clifl has ultimate responsibility for each 
project and necessarily maintains direct 

His many contributions to his commu 
nity, both as a professional and as a citi 
zen, including work on the City of Berke 
ley's masterplan revision, have earned 
him the Berkeley Chamber of Com 
merce's Norman Branguin Award and 
more recently, the distinguished Ben 
jamin Ide Wheeler Award for Public 

Mr. Ratcliff has been Principal-in- 
Charge of the University of the Pacific 
Science Center, Computer Center and 
Campus Development Plan, Stockton; 
Rochdale Village Cooperative Student 
Housing, UC Berkeley, and the Ala 
meda County Administration Building. 

Peter Scott, Principal 

Peter Scott received design degrees 
from Stanford University in 1956, and the 
Art Center School, Los Angeles, in 1960. 
He has been a registered architect since 
1966 and joined the firm in 1962. 

Mr. Scott serves as Principal-in-Charge 
of Design, working with each project 
team to develop the strongest visual 
concepts and user-oriented solutions. 

He is a member of the Airpo.rt Land 
Use Commission for Alameda County, 
and has served on several other civic 
and community organizations over the 
past ten years. 

Mr. Scott was responsible for the de 
sign of PG&E's Engineering Research 
Center, San Ramon; Bank of America's 
new Oakland Main Office; California 
State Automobile Association. Oakland, 
and the masterplan and design of the 
City of Livermore Civic Center. 

: 5 ngmeenng Research Scir. ."arnon Church ol the Resurrection. Pleasant Hill 

/Vest Oakland Multi-Service Center 

:. Art in . '. n lei 'er.ter rer^eley Athenian School. Danvilli 

Rochdale V;.;age Student 1 lousing Berkeley 

Jidge House Loop Student housing. Berkeley Humboldt State Umv Science Center, Arcata 

lehurst School Library Oakland 

Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital Laboratory West Oakland Multi-Service Center 

3ar:k ol America Oakland K'.z.r. Office 

.. ; ' - T 

Bear Valley Condominiums 

Bank of America Branch Oakland 

Lilval Development Co . Stockton 

>akland RehabL::a':on 



Lone Rock Ranch County 

Vest C a.-;:^r.a Branch Library 

'. - 

^i IlvJl lUi J 




Riess: Okay. Changing the subject. In 1961, you became Ratcliff, 
Slama & Cadwalader, and you moved into a new building. Was 
there a lot of negotiating of the terms of all of this? Was it 
entered into lightly or heavily? 

Ratcliff: I was trying to look ahead and make a situation which would 

last a long time. I envisioned this corporation as going on as 
it has, and for a very long time in the future. It seemed to 
me that a corporation would be a good idea, since we probably 
would want to involve other people in the future. It was one 
way to focus the responsibility that we were all going to 
jointly share. We could have also done this as a partnership. 

Also, at that point neither Burns nor Murray were 
financially well fixed. I was the only one that had enough 
money to operate the firm. I felt that was okay, but if these 
people were going to become full partners, we ought to have a 
way to spread responsibility and recognition. It was a good 
idea. They were wonderful partners. 

Riess: Were there guidelines for incorporating that you just turned 

Ratcliff: Oh, it was very easy to do. My lawyer from the beginning was 
Dave Gideon, Class of '36 at Cal, and a close personal friend. 
He operated a firm which specialized in architectural and 
construction law, and he was very well-informed on 
architectural matters. 

Riess: Well, it must have felt quite different the day that that was 
all done. 


Ratcliff: It sure did. I did it with, in a way, some misgivings, and yet 
with a feeling that it's better to do it sooner than later, and 
that seemed like the logical time. Looking back, I think it 
was. As a matter of fact, I didn't equalize our salaries at 
that point. 

A corporation is a stock ownership -type organization, so I 
sold them each 200 shares, and I kept 600 shares. I charged 
them $10 per share. That came out to $2000 apiece. Gideon 
said it was a ridiculously low price. I told Dave, "I want 
them to be partners. They can't afford more than that, and I 
want to start this way." He insisted that I keep more than 50 
percent of the shares because, he said, "You will just simply 
go on your face unless you manage this thing and run it, not 
only because of good will, but because, in fact, you own it. 
You must have the controlling interest." 

I thought that sounded like the right thing to do, anyway. 
Murray and Burns didn't object to that. They really couldn't 
object. In a sense, it was almost a gift. But I didn't feel 
comfortable not being equalized, and very shortly after that we 
equalized salaries. We didn't equalize the ownership for quite 
a long time. Dave just wouldn't let me do it. Equalizing 
salaries quickly was a very good idea. It kept the morale of 
the group up and was symbolic of the kind of cooperation we 
expected and which we had. 

Riess: The brotherhood. 

Ratcliff: Yeah, it was really great. We shared every problem. We shared 
every success. That's the way I wanted to have it. 

Working for Alameda County 

Riess: You got three or four very big jobs right around that time. 

How did you get the Alameda County buildings, and what was the 
association with Van Borg and Nakamura? 

Ratcliff: First, I went down to the county. I knew Kent Pursel who had 

been a member of the city council in Berkeley until he became a 
member of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors. Then when 
he became chairman of the board of supervisors I called him up 
and said, "I want to have lunch with you. I want to talk about 
doing work for the county." "Well," he said, "okay. Come on 
down. We'll talk." 






Before we left his office, he said, "I want to start out 
with the bottom line. You don't want any work for the county 
right now. Between you and me, it is corrupt, and it starts 
with the board of supervisors." He went down through the list 
of problems that they had, which were hard to believe. He had 
been on the board for a while, but he said, "I'm not going to 
leave this board until it's corrected. I'm here to clean it 
up. " 

The gist of the message was that the board had been 
passing out the good jobs to their friends. In one case the 
good friend had a country place in the Sierra foothills which 
he kept fully stocked with food and liquor which was open to 
each member of the board. He also made large gifts to the 
members and in exchange he was given every job he asked for. 
Kent Pursel didn't like that. 

You had had no idea what you were asking. 

I didn't know what I was getting into at all! Well, this 
happened before the Van Borg situation occurred. 

So then he said, "I tell you what, this is going to 
improve, and when it gets to the point where I think you can do 
business with us, I will let you know." And one day he called 
up and said, "We're going to build a new administration 
building here, and it's going to be okay to apply." 

"It's going to be okay to apply?" 
up sufficiently? 

That means he had cleaned it 

He said, "I think it's going to be a job that you could do and 
feel comfortable working with- -with us- -and the problems have 
been straightened out." 

I had never done any work with Van Borg, who had inherited 
Russ [Russell] de Lappe's office. Russ de Lappe had died 
shortly before this. He had done a lot of work, especially up 
and down the valley, in Modesto and Turlock and other places in 
the valley, where I guess he may have originally been born. 
I'm not sure. He had a brother-in-law, or a brother, who lived 
out there, who promoted all this work for him. He had done 
some city halls and county buildings. Van Borg inherited this, 
and so with that background I thought it would be a good idea 
to have a joint venture, since this was really the first public 


job that we had undertaken, 
courthouse . 

I had never tried to lay out a 

Riess: So you approached Van Borg, then. 
Ratcliff : So I approached Van Borg. 
Riess: And was it a competition at all? 

Ratcliff: Oh, yes. [John Carl] Warnecke was down there. There were 

several other guys trying to get the work. What happened was, 
Kent Pursel introduced us around. Now we had the inside track, 
like Cerruti in a different way. [laughter] This time the 
other poor guys were out, and we were in. But Warnecke came 
down and participated. He was our only real stiff competition. 
But we got the job. I think it was based on politics and good 
will that was promoted, largely, by Kent Pursel. 

Manuel Rasetto and Lee Sweeney joined with Kent, which 
gave us a majority of three, and the other two fell in line. 
Lee Sweeney, who had been on the board a long time, he used to 
sell fixtures for Crane Company and he claimed he was a close 
friend of my father. So it wasn't a Johnny- come -lately 

Riess: Does that mean that his fixtures were used in the building? 

Ratcliff: No, but he told us what fixtures he wanted us to specify. But 
they had to accept equal alternates. 

Riess: Thu , could get very tricky. 
Ratcliff: Yeah, but we had no trouble. 

The county had a new man named Herb Crowle, who was the 
county public works director. He became a close personal 
friend. He was the guy in the county who put the program 
together and conducted the county business. He was a very 
knowledgeable guy and great to work with. 

We worked with Mitch Van Borg, and that was not a wholly 
satisfactory relationship, [laughs] It didn't work out very 

Riess: Once you had gotten into that position with the county, it was 
hard to dislodge Ratcliff Architects, or is that not so? 

Ratcliff: Hard to dislodge us? 


Riess: Yes. 

Ratcliff: True. We developed a good working relationship. 

Riess: Who actually did the design for the garage? 

Ratcliff: For the garage, most was done in Van Borg's office. 

Riess: And the administration building? 

Ratcliff: They influenced the design heavily in both buildings. We had 
quite a bit of input, but I'd say that they influenced the 
design more heavily than we did. 

Riess: What was the particular strength of Ratcliff, Slama, 
Cadwalader, then? 

Ratcliff: We participated in every phase of the work. Actually, during 
the construction period we did all the supervision on both the 
jobs, and practically all of the work with the county 
committees, all the way through, interpreting their 
requirements . The Van Borg office was extremely uncooperative 
or unwilling to work together as a team. We really had to let 
them do their thing, or break up the joint venture. I felt 
that it was uncalled for and unnecessary. 

But, in the course of doing it, we became very close 
friends with the county. In the end, Herb Crowle was one of 
the biggest promoters we ever had, and we're really very close 
with him, and with the contractor, Stolte Construction. They 
were sending work our way afterwards for a long time. This was 
the other side of the coin which made the job worthwhile. As a 
matter of fact, we're still doing county work. Today we're 
doing a thirty million dollar hospital for them. When you were 
in the office yesterday, drawings of it were on the wall. 
That's for the county. We are still in good graces with the 

I'm not going to go into the problems with Van Borg, but 
they became visible, and they were not good. 

Riess: You mean it became visible to the county people what was going 

Ratcliff: Yes, unfortunately. I think it was visible to the county 

supervisors, as well as the county staff. So it wasn't a good 
scene. But anyway, I was committed to going through with it 
and to turning in a good job. We were going to do something 
that we could be proud of, and they could, too. I think it 


turned out pretty much that way. 
the county. 

We came out very well with 

Riess: I'm interested that it was that earlier move on your part, 

going down and talking to people and making yourself available, 
that was the kickoff . 

Ratcliff: That started the ball rolling. 
[Interview 6: June 28, 1989 ]## 

Riess: Last time we ended the interview, off the tape, by your saying 
that after you had successfully worked for the county doing the 
administration building and the garage, you "never felt that 
you competed fairly anymore." I thought you should be given a 
chance to expand on that statement. 

Ratcliff: [laughs] I'd better. What I was really trying to say was that 
the county had had a very bad experience with architects prior 
to the time that we came aboard. There had been a lot of 
influence peddling, paid for with liquor and trips to Hawaii, 
and stuff like this. They weren't used to doing business on a 
professional basis in which there were no payoffs. The county 
staff was new. We had come in on a wave of change, and we 
couldn't do anything wrong. It didn't last forever, but it 
lasted for a while. 

Riess: Did your fees tend to be lower? 

Ratcliff: No. I think they were average. We did it then on a percentage 
basis. Now we usually estimate how much our costs are going to 
be, how much of a profit we hope to make, and what the costs of 
our engineers will be, and negotiate a fee on the basis of 
costs. People usually translate this back into a percentage of 
the construction cost, to see how it fits into the total 
picture . 

Contractors and Architects, and Murray's Contribution 

Riess: When you were working for the county, did you find yourself 
always using the same construction people? 

Ratcliff: No. Projects were always bid. All public work was bid. The 
first experience we had with the county was on the 
administration building, where Stolte was the general 
contractor. We worked with a guy named Cece Murphrey, who was 
one of their chief people at that time. Cece taught us a great 


deal about contracting and about business. He was a very 
experienced person, and it was really a great pleasure to work 
with him. 

Riess: I should think until you really had a lot of experience it 
could be a lot of groping in the dark. 

Ratcliff: Yeah, experience is a great teacher and you discover how 
important the other guy is . 

I found to my great pleasure that there was a complete 
integrity displayed by Stolte at that time. Everything was 
above board and straightforward. This was recognized by the 
county, too, and I don't think they always experience that. So 
the project, from my point of view, was personally very 
successful and very rewarding, as it was to the county. 

Riess: Do you sort of try to stay with the same general contractors if 
you possibly can? 

Ratcliff: You can't really. You invite them to bid, but almost always 
the person who has the low bid gets the job. On public work 
you have to take competitive bids. You do have to give it, I 
think, to the low bidder, unless you can show some reason to 
reject them. Most general contractors at this level are good 
people and very experienced. 

Riess: Do they usually have some one person who is most closely 
liaisoned with design? 

Ratcliff: No, not really. 

Contractors are chosen for their ability to do the job as 
efficiently as it can be done- -you know, make money. They are 
basically in there to make money, to get it done and get it 
over with, make money and get out, keep everybody happy. But 
you do find people, and Cece was one of them, who are sensitive 
to design. He would be inclined to wait and think and ask 
questions before he did something, [laughs] 

Riess: I asked that partly because I wondered if the edges were 

blurring at all in these professions. At Cal Poly there is a 
major in architectural construction. 

Ratcliff: Yes? That's a very good idea. 

Riess: In a firm as big as yours, do you push people in the direction 
of being your construction experts? I'm curious whether in 
construction firms there is someone who is real close to being 


an architect, and whether in architectural firms there's 
someone who's close to being a contractor. 

Ratcliff: I think there's a blurred line probably on both sides. Almost 
all of the young people we get want to be strictly architects. 
They have no field experience and are not prepared to supervise 
construction. We have found our best field supervisors among 
older architects who have had many years of experience. An 
architect really needs as a supervisor a person who has a very 
good memory, who can understand the drawings, and who is 
familiar with the construction techniques and can anticipate 
problems . 

Riess: Very good memory? Why that? 

Ratcliff: Because there is a lot to remember- -drawings, specifications, 
codes, materials and techniques, et cetera, and what problems 
might occur within the trades. 

It starts when you start digging the first hole. Are you 
hitting the kind of ground that you expected to, or is there an 
engineering problem here? Water is such an important and 
dangerous thing in building. It's the one thing that you can't 
predict sometimes. Before things are covered up, problems have 
to be resolved. 

It takes a certain amount of experience. A new person 
coming from school may have read about these things , but he 
hasn't experienced them, and I don't think it's possible, 
really, for a young person to just move in with the kind of 
knowledge he needs to run a difficult project. Some learn it 
very quickly. Most of the people we've had who have been the 
best people at this have been older people who have been burned 
a lot of times and who know, by experience, what kinds of 
problems you can bump into, and how important it is to keep up 
with the momentum of the project. 

Riess: That's interesting. You would think, in a way, that it would 
be like an apprentice positionsend them out to the field 

Ratcliff: We give them field experience as quickly as possible, but most 
people in the office have not had much field experience. A 
good field inspector isn't necessarily a good designer. He 
isn't necessarily a good businessman. He's just a fellow who's 
really had the experience of doing it and gets along well with 
people . 


Murray Slama became very interested in this aspect of 
work, of actual construction. Murray was an interesting guy. 
He felt that a building wasn't finished until it was built. He 
was very interested in following every step of the way through 
to the end. He wrote a book, finally, on construction 
techniques and pitfalls, the kinds of things you'd look for 
when you inspected a job. It was an inspector's manual, 
really. He was very successful with his book. The book 
discusses every trade, and it follows a project right through. 
It's very well-organized. I think he's had ten or more 
editions of this book, keeping it up to date. I haven't seen 
it recently, but it's very illuminating. You find a lot of 
things in it. Almost anybody can read this thing and learn 
something [Construction Inspection Manual, by Murray A. Slama, 
Building News, Inc., Los Angeles, 1973]. 

Riess: Sounds like you were lucky to have had him. 

Ratcliff: Yes, we were very lucky to have had him. There are many sides 
to it. That's one of the things that is interesting about 
architecture, I think, that it's complex, it's really a 
complete way of life. 

Riess: Financial Management for Architectural Firms is another book 
that Murray Slama did, and that's "a guide to profit planning, 
and project budgeting, and billing rates, and payroll, and cost 
accounting, and compensation." 

Ratcliff: Yes. He was the motor behind that part of our work, and it 
saved us a lot of money. 

Riess: And those principles have continued to guide the Ratcliff 

Ratcliff: Yes, and they have advanced since then. When Murray left, we 
simply had to pick up where he left off. Murray took a lot of 
the skill that we had in both those fields with him. 

A Talent for WorkinE with Staff and with Clients 

Riess: What was your best talent in the sixties and seventies, when 
you were very active? 

Ratcliff: I think, probably, keeping everybody happy, [laughing] 









No kidding! I have to talk to you about that, 
what you believe about yourself? 

Is that really 

That's one thing that I think I was good at, getting good 
people and keeping them working together well, and recognizing 
their ability and somehow encouraging them. I felt as though I 
was pretty effective in doing that, and I participated in 
almost every aspect of the work. I was interested in the 
initial concept of projects, and working on direction, and the 
general, overall, big ideas, and that sort of thing. 

You mean, big design ideas? 

Design ideas, yes, and general approach, 
effective with clients. 

All modesty aside- - 

I was pretty 

Super modesty here, I suppose, but I feel that at first I was 
more effective with most of the clients than the rest of them. 
Generally, I knew them to start with, and then I think part of 
that was sensitivity and experience. I feel that it's terribly 
important for an architect to be receptive to the situation, to 
what the client is anxious to achieve, how he fits into the 
project, how much he really knows about what he wants to do, 
whether he's telling you, in his words, something that you're 
understanding correctly. Sometimes people tell you things, and 
they really mean something that doesn't come through. You've 
got to sort of adjust and find out what the real message is. 

How did you do that? When you were in a conference with a new 
client, did you do a lot of sketching? 

Yes. I did some with eagle drafting pencils and a lot with 
conversation. A lot of it's really understanding what the 
owner's objective is. The way you approach a big building is a 
little different than the way you approach a residence. The 
issues in a residence get to be emotionally involved with a 
person's lifestyle, and that's one kind of thing. 

With a building, it's usually less personal. You're 
designing something for a group of people, a team or others, 
and you're not usually talking directly to the individual who's 
going to sit in the desk. You're probably talking to the 

Would you rather have a client very engaged, or would you 
rather have a client who says, "Look, Bob, I know that you know 
how to handle this." 


Ratcliff: I want an intelligent client who's very engaged in the areas 
where he needs to be engaged, that is not meddling in some of 
the things that he really doesn't know much about and that he 
shouldn't try to really get involved with. The client won't 
get what he wants unless he gets engaged; he's got to be 
involved. I always have told them, "This isn't going to be 
your house unless you have a big input, and it's not going to 
be what you want unless you get your points across and not till 
you really are understood. You've got to read me as I've got 
to read you. We've got to just be sure we're talking the same 
language. That's absolutely basic." Most people like to be 
dealt with in that way. They like to feel that it's important. 
They know their ideas are important to them. They like to feel 
somebody else is interested and really wants to understand 

Riess: In the sixties, then, and perhaps into the seventies, when a 
new project would come in, no matter what the area, you would 
tend to be the first contact that they would have with the 

Ratcliff: Yes. During those periods I was the one who generally was 
approached by the client, and so I generally was the lead 
principal. That didn't take place in every case, but in 
general that's what did happen. 

Riess: Walter Gropius in an interview in 1970 said, "My only talent, I 
think, is to keep things together- -to keep people together as 
an organization." [Innovations in Wood, Vol. VI, No. 1, p. 12.) 

Ratcliff: [laughs] Nice. I didn't know he said that. 

Highland Hospital 




How did you get started in hospital work? 
your expertise? 

How did you develop 

Well, we had never done any work on hospitals. So when the 
County of Alameda decided to build a new facility at Highland 
Hospital, we thought again of a joint venture with an architect 
who was experienced in hospitals. After inquiring around, we 
decided to ask Rex [W.] Allen if he would do it, and he agreed. 
He had just been working on the French Hospital in San 
Francisco. He had done a number of hospitals. 

Is he East Bay? 


Ratcliff: No, he's San Francisco. He later became president of the AIA. 

We made a presentation to the county and got the job. 
This was in 1965. It was an eleven million dollar job, which 
was a big building at that time. The work was done in our 
office, but Rex came over and participated in all of the 
general planning ideas, and he provided us with a person we 
call a "project architect," a fellow named Jan Smeckens , who 
had done a lot of hospital work. In the course of that, we 
hired people who had been doing hospital work in different 
offices around. So all of a sudden we built up a team of 
knowledgeable hospital architects and draftsmen. 




You hired them for the short-term. 
It was just for the project, yes. 
Is that when you got Syed Husain? 

Yes. Sy came aboard at that time, and he stayed with us and 
became a principal. He's been very active and is the person 
who has led the medical team in our office ever since, very 

It's interesting how you get passed around. You do work 
for one hospital, and every other hospital watches. The 
medical neighborhood is really small, and everybody knows 
what's going on. They know all the people involved, and so you 
get passed from one person to another. Your reputation becomes 
all -important. You must do a good job! 

You get a chance to correct your mistakes, also. 
assuming you made a few mistakes at Highland. 

I mean, 

We never did a job where we didn't make a mistake. This is 
just par for the course. You can't do these complicated things 

That's so painful to hear that, you know?! 

There are just too many people involved. Sometimes there are 
outright errors. Sometimes things are not well coordinated, 
such as the location of mechanical work. Sometimes, in 
hospital work, and more often than not, new equipment comes 
along, and new ideas come along, so that as you progress 
through the job you find that there are some better ways of 
doing things. Some new equipment is developed. In that first 
hospital we did, all the radiology equipment was made for one 
power system, and before we got to construction, more powerful 


equipment was available, and we had to redesign the whole 
electric system to serve the new equipment. Sometimes there 
are mistakes, and sometimes, as you progress, you discover 
better ways to do things. 

Mistakes. Honorable Men, and Insurance 

We've had pretty good luck. More often than not we've 
been able to anticipate the problems. I remember on the County 
Administration Building we had what I thought was a terrible 
mistake. The fans for the main building were in a penthouse 
above the fifth floor, which was the top floor of the building. 
For some reason we hadn't provided sound barriers for the noise 
and vibration that would be generated by these fans . The 
county board of supervisors had their offices right underneath 
this. Well, when they put in the fans and they turned them on, 
before they buttoned anything up, I knew we were in terrible 
trouble. So this was going to be a big extra. It was clearly 
a mistake. We should have put in a sound barrier. 

I told Herb Crowle we would take care of it, and I called 
up our insurance people and told them what we planned to do. 
They asked if the county had objected. I told them that the 
county had not objected yet, because the building wasn't 
finished. "But we have to fix it now or it's going to shut the 
building down. It'll just be a mess!" They said, "Well, we 
won't insure you if you go ahead to fix this, unless the county 
objects . " 

I felt that our reputation was at stake, so we went ahead 
anyway. It cost about fifteen thousand dollars. I thought our 
reputation's worth more than fifteen thousand bucks. We could 
argue with these guys later. So we went ahead and did it, and 
when we got through, the head person in the insurance company's 
San Francisco office became involved. They told him about 
this, apparently, and he called me up and sent a letter of 
congratulations, and the company didn't even take the 
deductible off. They felt we had saved more than the 
deductible, and they paid the whole show. That had never 
happened to me before, or since. 

Riess: That's very interesting. What a bunch of honorable men! 

Ratcliff: When that hit the county- -boy, our stock just [snapping his 

fingers] went like that. It was just terrific. It was really 
very rewarding to us . 


Riess : Have you had the same group of insurers over the long period? 

Ratcliff: We had Continental Casualty for a long time. Now we've got a 
different outfit. 

Riess: Was that a company that your father had dealt with? 

Ratcliff: No, it was a new company. Continental Casualty was then the 
biggest insurer of architects and engineers on professional 
liability, so-called malpractice. 

Riess: Is that something that has been more a consideration in your 
day than in your father's day? 

Ratcliff: Oh, yeah. He didn't carry it. And I didn't have it at all 
when I started. You can't operate without it, now. 

Riess: Was it, perhaps, first important when you were on the county 

Ratcliff: That's about when we started. We didn't get involved until we 
got into some pretty big work. Then we realized it was 
important . 

Ratcliff: We've had some difficulty recently because our engineers have 
been denied insurance, and so the errors that they make fall 
onto our carrier, which is a little bit awkward. We've got a 
case like that right now in the office where the structural 
engineer made an error in the design of concrete mix, which is 
a hard thing for architects to pick up. Anyway, that's the 
kind of the risk you run. We just would assume the engineer 
would know what he's doing. 

Riess: So this means you were using someone new, probably. 

Ratcliff: No, we weren't. We had used this engineer before quite a few 
times. We never had a problem with him, and we think he is a 
very good engineer. I don't know how it happened that we 
didn't know. I think when his policy expired the company would 
not renew, so he got caught. 

Riess: Sounds awkward. 

Ratcliff: Yes, that was. 

Riess: In 1969, you joined the Herrick Hospital board. 

Ratcliff: I wasn't on the board. I was on the advisory committee. 


Riess: Vas that because of your expertise on building matters, or 
because of your community role? 

Ratcliff: Oh, I think it was partly for both, but perhaps more for a 

community role than building matters. They wanted to get more 
community representation on the advisory board, partly because 
of their new building program. 

Environmentally Conscious Practice vs the Competitive World 

Riess: There's no particular place to ask this question, but did you 
ever decide, categorically, that there were certain kinds of 
work that you wanted not ever to be associated with, as a firm? 

Ratcliff: Well, we really never made a formal decision about that. But 
we didn't apply for work where we thought that the project 
would have a negative effect on the environment. 

Riess: Can you give an example? 

Ratcliff: Offhand I can't, but there was nothing major. 

Riess: For instance, if it were a shopping center that was going to 
require destroying an estuary- -well , somebody' s going to get 
the job. 

Ratcliff: That's always the argument: if you don't do it, somebody else 
will, and don't you think you could do a better job than 
somebody else? 

Riess : What do you do with that argument? 

Ratcliff: I think it's a good argument. But in real life, if you don't 
get really enthusiastic about a project, you don't get it 
anyway. 1 think if we had ever really been asked to do 
something that we were clearly opposed to, we probably would 
have written to the people and explained our position. 

Actually, the problem we faced most of the time was that 
we needed the work, so few things were turned down. We took 
what came our way and we were able to maintain a fairly even 
flow of work. It wasn't, probably, the greatest possible 
selection, but it was not bad. 


Riess: Are you talking about a particular time when architecture was 
in a slump, or are you just talking about the sheer 

Ratcliff : I guess what 1 am saying is that there seems to be enough work 
to go around, but there is a limited amount of the best, and 
stiff competition to get it. For the really good work, 
nowadays people will spend a month making drawings and 
preparing sketches and even whole concepts to be presented at 
the interview. Esherick did that with the Mills College Art 
Building. He had it all drawn up, an impressive schematic 
plan. His office really spent a lot of time in doing it. 

Riess: And all is fair in love and war? 

Ratcliff: Of course it is. He got the job, and I think he did a very 

nice job of it. In some cases, you might do that if you felt 
that was necessary. In other cases, you may have personal 
connections which cover all the bases anyway. I think in this 
case he has personal connections which do that, most of the 

We made an effort to get that project. We understood the 
program, met and discussed the project with the college, and 
prepared some graphic material. We made a good presentation. 
But Holy Smoke! Esherick was halfway through schematic design! 
I didn't realize they were going this far. Afterwards, I could 
see there was no possible way that we could have gotten the job 
in the face of their presentation. 

Riess: The closer you are to the scuttlebutt and the gossip, the 
better. Is there an organized way of-- 

Ratcliff: Gossip committee? Well, I guess everybody is on that 
committee . 

Riess: If you decide not to compete for a project because you think 
it's environmentally harmful, then do you make a statement so 
that the whole world knows that? Unless someone knows, you've 
done it in a vacuum. Does the situation ever arise where you 
actually go public, saying that you think that this is not a 
good idea to do such-and-such? 

Ratcliff: On the Berkeley Waterfront Committee, we became quite vocal. 
When Victor Gruen came up with his proposal for Berkeley--! 
told you about that. 


University of the Pacific. Unfinished Business 

Riess: How did you get the University of the Pacific work? You 

mentioned to me an interview with the president, Robert Burns. 

Ratcliff: That was really a cold lead. We didn't know anybody on that 
campus . 

Riess: A "cold lead"? 

Ratcliff: It was new territory. They planned to build a student health 

center, and we applied and were invited to be interviewed. The 
interview took place in The Tower at UOP. I remember it well. 
I got to the meeting, and everybody was there waiting for Dr. 
[Robert Edward] Burns, the president, who was a feisty little 
guy with a twinkle in his eye. He suddenly arrived, and 
everybody stood up as he came in. [laughs] 

We shook hands and sat down, and immediately he started 
telling me that he had a lot of experience with architects, and 
almost none of it had been good. He thought that we were a 
queer bunch, that we all were anxious to make monuments and do 
things that would generate great respect for us at the expense 
of the client who would be paying for the bills. It was a 
purposely tough exaggerated language. Then he asked what my 
feelings were about this, whether I was interested because I 
thought there was an opportunity to make a monument, or whether 
I was interested in it because I thought there was an 
opportunity to serve the university, [laughter] Everybody was 
snickering, I guess they may have heard this before and saw 
that I was on a pretty hot spot. 

So I made eye contact with Dr. Burns and said, "Thank you. 
I'd like to try to answer those questions." Everybody 
snickered. I decided that he had asked for a straight answer 
and that I would give it. So, carefully and candidly, I told 
him what I thought the architect's role was, what my goals 
were, and what I felt the owner's responsibilities were, what 
the basis would be for an agreeable arrangement, that it was a 
two-way street, and when both parties saw the street this way 
it could be a really beautiful avenue. 

Riess: Wonderful! 

Ratcliff: [laughing] I think that's the reason I got the job. He was 
asking for something, and he didn't pull any punches, and 
neither did I. I found out later that they had had difficult 


problems and were very anxious to get somebody who would 

University of the Pacific's a little different than the 
University of California, it's more like a family. The 
University of California is more like a corporation, a complete 
bureaucracy. Out there, it is much less complicated. The 
president watches what goes on and so does the vice-president. 
If a person gets on staff and works himself into a position of 
tenure there, they are there for life. This doesn't 
necessarily bring forth the kind of competitiveness and the 
kind of quality, perhaps, that you sometimes get when high 
standards are put above all other aspects of a person--! mean, 
high standards of production and leadership. I found that most 
of the people there were just devoted to the place. The people 
who were running the institution all felt that way about it. 

Riess : Do you continue to do work for them? Are you the campus 
architects there, now? 

Ratcliff: We were for a long time, but we're not anymore. I don't know 

exactly what happened, but something happened that caused us to 
fall out of favor. We did their master plan several times and 
remodeled a lot of buildings --did their health center and 
student union building and music building in Stockton, as well 
as several projects at the UOP Dental School in San Francisco. 
But some friction developed, I think, within the campus that 
finally resulted in problems. We found ourselves in the 
middle, unable to move. 

Dr. Robert Winterberg, who was in charge of all the 
projects for UOP, told us that they had a donor who wanted to 
improve the old music building. They had told this donor that 
for one million dollars this music building could be made the 
best music hall in Stockton. This person felt that would be 
just what she wanted, and she gave them a million bucks. So we 
were asked to examine the building, write a program, and make a 
cost estimate to do that. 

Well, we hired engineers and examined the building, and 
there was not way for a million dollars you could really fix 
it. There was a worn-out ventilation system. There was no 
air-conditioning. Plumbing and electrical needed major 
repairs. Everything about the building was in trouble. We 
made a very complete estimate and gave it to them with several 
options, all of which exceeded the budget. They were in a 
dilemma, because they had already told the donor what her money 
would buy, and the decision to proceed was delayed. 



Finally, all of a sudden there came a blast from the 
president's office that we were delaying the job and hadn't 
performed under our agreement. We never actually had an 
agreement. There was a gap of communication that we never 
could understand. I'm not sure that the president of UOP at 
the time, Stanley McCaffrey, or his vice-president, Cliff 
Dochtermann, ever saw the estimates or understood what the 
problem really was. Our contact had been with Dr. Winterberg. 
I wrote a letter to Winterberg and offered to come and talk 
about it. I asked for a meeting with Stan. His final words 
were, "I would rather that you didn't do that." I said, "Okay, 
forget it." But I am sorry. It was more than the loss of the 
job. I think they should have made it clear Vith us. 

UC Berkeley, a Different Matter- -Remodelling 

Riess: To move from the University of the Pacific to the University of 
California- - . 

Ratcliff: Shall I be clear? 
Riess: [laughing] Yes! 

Ratcliff: Things have changed, but in the days of Louis DeMonte the way 
they handled the selection process in Berkeley seemed to vary 
with the job. Sometimes we were sent an R.F.P. and asked to 
submit material and be interviewed. Other times, we've been 
just simply called up and told "You've got a project." Today 
there are more people in the act, more questions asked, and 
it's much more complicated to deal with the University than it 
was when Louis DeMonte and Norm Jensen were there. It seemed 
to be a more hands-on, more direct, closer client-architect 
relationship than it is now. 

The first buildings we did were the agricultural 
buildings. We were able to talk to the professors about their 
laboratories. Dan [Daniel I.] Arnon [biochemist], for example, 
had his own laboratory, and he wanted it his way. We spent a 
lot of time with him, working out exactly how he wanted to do 
it. It was a direct contact. Everybody participated, and we 
had round-table discussions with the different professors. 
That's changed now. They've separated architects from faculty, 
or users, and we have to work through a project manager. That 

Request for proposals 


Riess : 



may have administrative advantages, but it has some 
bureaucratic disadvantages . 

At Stockton you presented to Dr. Burns, 
directly to the Regents? 

Here did you present 

In Stockton, we presented directly to Dr. Winterberg, who took 
it to the president and the regents. For the UC campuses, the 
projects are presented to the Regents by the campus architects, 
not by the executive architect. So you are more distanced. 
The distance I am speaking of is during the planning process, 
interpreting the program and making the plans. 

Is it satisfying to do remodeling and renovation? 

Yes, it is. There is a personal satisfaction in dealing with 
people and there is design involved at every stage. The inside 
of a building is where you live. It is as important as the 
outside, maybe more important to the person who lives there 
than the outside. Even Frank Lloyd Wright used to say: it's 
not the walls and the roof that counts --it's the space that's 

There is a point that you can make about that, but it's 
much more satisfying, in a way, to do the whole thing. Then 
you can see it from the outside as well as from the inside, and 
you can express the whole concept. 

UC Santa Cruz, and the Landscape Architects 

Ratcliff: My first experience at Santa Cruz was with Jack Wagstaff , who 
was the campus architect, and Dean McHenry, who was then the 
chancellor. There were other people on committees and staff 
things, but those were the two people that guided the work and 
made the decisions. I knew Jack Wagstaff in college, and I 
t. .nk that was the reason we were invited to go down there in 
the first place, to design the Chancellor's house and later do 
the student apartments [Student Apartments, UCSC 1971, 
Ratcliff, Slama & Cadwalader] . 

Jack was actually the first person that they hired for 
Santa Cruz, and a wonderful sensitive architect. Dean McHenry 
was more reserved and more conservative than Jack, an ardent 
conservationist whose second interest is plants and nature. He 
was a great person to have had as the first chancellor when the 
general plan was evolving and this wonderful natural site was 
being invaded by the campus. 








Thomas Church was influential, too. 

Tommy Church and Dean McHenry saw eye to eye on protecting the 
natural setting. Tommy was a wonderful person to work with, I 
must say. He was an exciting person. 

Did you work directly with him on the Santa Cruz campus? 

Yes, I did. He was so creative and so informal. It was 
exciting to talk to him. He'd come to the job and go out on 
the site, take off his shoes, put on boots, open his little 
briefcase, and get out a little box with pencils and charcoal 
and a charcoal -type eraser, and a pad of paper. He'd get an 
idea and he'd make a charcoal sketch of his idea. And all the 
time there was this wonderful conversation. He had a good 
background in plant materials. You learned something every 
time you met with him. McHenry was just devoted to him. 
Everybody was. He was fantastic. 

He really had a positive influence all over. 

He was so willing to take another person's ideas, and work with 
them. People felt like coming out with things when they were 
talking to him. 

It sounds opposite from what I've heard about Wurster. 
was not a person with whom you could discuss ideas. 


Well, that may be. My experience with Bill Wurster was 
limited, although I knew him over a long period of time. I 
never felt the same openness and enthusiasm, some way. Tommy 
Church was so open. You felt as though there were no holds 
barred. You just could get with him right away. Not too many 
people are able to do that. Bill had his own way. People 
always used to say that Bill had a wonderful bedside manner. 

Now, you've talked about Tommy. You've talked about Garrett 
Eckbo. Have there been other landscape architects you feel 
have been important in your practice? 

Tommy Church and Eckbo were probably the two most important 
people to me. But we had good experiences with many landscape 
architects . 


Strong Designers and Project Teams at The Ratcliff Architects 

Riess: Who do you feel have been the strongest designers in The 
Ratcliff Architects? 

Ratcliff: I think Burns is a very sensitive designer and has had a big 
influence on the quality of our work. His principal interest 
is in design, and on most of the projects he's had an input in 
the design. 

Riess: I've noted that he has worked on housing and community and 
urban projects. 

Ratcliff: I think that's accurate, yes. 
Riess: Peter Scott? 

Ratcliff: He is a very bright fellow. He designs well, writes well, 
speaks well, and he has strong personal prejudices and 
direction. He had his own way of doing things, which didn't 
really generate a lot of support from the rest of the office. 
He developed his own answers and didn't ask many questions. 

Peter had an idea that design was done in one way, 
somehow, and that there are definite rights and wrongs. He 
wrote a long paper on his approach to design and color 
selection which he presented to the office. I think that the 
people in the office felt that it cramped their style. 

People wanted to be a little freer to retrace their steps 
and be less efficient, I guess. Pete was very concerned about 
making money. The design process is a very difficult thing to 
control, and it's not efficient unless it is tightly 
controlled. I guess we were not really ready for that. 

Riess: Peter Scott's educational background was a little bit different 
[BA in Design, Stanford; Art Center School, Los Angeles]. I 
wondered whether that was what made him go in a different 
direction. The graphic design. 

Ratcliff: I think part of it was that, and partly the fact that he is 
almost as interested, I think, in graphic design as he is in 
architecture, and is disturbed by the compromises which are 
inevitable when you work with a team. He is a good architect 
and best working by himself. 

Riess: Does graphic design suggest something more two-dimensional than 
three - dimens ional? 


Ratcliff: I think so, though he understood three dimensions. He's got a 
lot going for him and a lot of the qualities that you'd like as 
a person. He's a good guy. 

Sy [Syed Husain] has a lot of good ideas. His work has 
almost always been focused on the medical. His principal input 
has been in his knowledge and background in medical 
architecture. He keeps himself up to date on all the new 
equipment and new procedures and work that is being done around 
the world. He is a gold mine of information. He is a very 
capable all-around architect widely recognized in the medical 
profession. Through him, we have developed a large medical 

Don Kasamoto came to us on loan from Hachiro Yuasa some 
twenty years ago. He became a principal at the same time Peter 
Scott did and has had a strong steadying influence on what 
makes an architectural office work. He is good at everything, 
from running the projects to office management and personnel. 
Nothing escapes him. He plays an essential role. 

Kit Ratcliff joined the office in 1974, became a principal 
in 1981 and president in 1986. In that year they hired a 
management consultant who analyzed their operations and made 
recommendations which immediately had a positive effect on 
office moral and efficiency. Steady growth since then has 
increased the staff to its present level of eighty-eight 
people, the largest it has ever been. Kit is a gifted 
communicator with clients and staff and partners. He is a 
strong supporter and participant in the area of design. He has 
been the leader in the use of the computer as a project 
management tool, is very effective at job procurement, and has 
energy left over for piano lessons! 

We have design review meetings, and all the projects go 
through a screening process, which is sometimes very helpful. 
We all have something to do with it. 

Riess: Everyone is free to suggest changes? 

Ratcliff: Yes. We try to keep the same people together on each job. It 
is good for the people and good for the job. 

Riess: How do you form a team after you get a job? 

Ratcliff: Well, to begin with, each project needs a project architect and 
a project designer. First we would decide which principal 
would be in charge, and then together we would select a project 
architect and a project designer. Usually, these people would 


go to the interview and, if successful, run the job. Right now 
a fellow named Crodd Chin generally leads our design team. 
He's a powerful designer, and he's been with us a long time. 
Structural, mechanical, and electrical consulting engineers 
would be selected and sometimes included in the interview team. 

Riess: So does the office end up being divided into chunks? Chin 

would be in one area, and all the people who would be working 
with him would be there, too? 

Ratcliff: Well, Chin has his desk where he does most of his work, and he 
is in constant contact with the other people on the project. 
Many things have to be done concurrently. You might say that 
the whole is made up of little chunks integrated together. All 
the disciplines have to be brought together- -design, 
estimating, scheduling, legal, structural, mechanical, 
electrical, architectural drawing, specifications, Job 
supervision, et cetera. 

One of the real problems in our office is how to integrate 
the little job with a big job. They both require principal 
involvement, but vastly different staff requirements. 

Management. Principal, and Partners 

Riess: Do you have someone who's in charge of management? 

Ratcliff: We haven't always, but we do now. 

Riess: In an earlier day, it would have been Murray Slama? 

Ratcliff: Well, Don Kasamoto did a lot of managing. Burns would have 

done some . Sy would have done some . I would have done some . 
We were not really good businesspeople until recently. Now we 
have a manager and computers and a good accounting department. 

We always had a bookkeeper, but we always seemed to find 
our problems after they had happened. Until the computer came 
along, we weren't really able to project things accurately. 

Riess: Do all architects operate somewhere between profit and 
disaster? Is this common? 

Ratcliff: Among the small firms I think it is fairly typical. A good 

businessperson would say, "Why don't you get a businessperson 
to figure this thing out for you, because then you'll know 


Riess : 






where you are. You'll be able to project, and you'll be able 
to avoid this terrible, nervous tension that you have, 
wondering where you are." You have to be organized to run a 
big firm successfully. 

Until you get to be a sizable firm, I think you just can 
hardly afford to have that kind of management. At this point, 
I think the office does have that kind of management. They do 
know where they are, and they do project ahead. One of the 
reasons, I think, is because they've got everything 
computerized. They can get instant answers on just about 
everything, and so they do. Once a week they have a review, 
and they've streamlined the review and the kinds of records 
that are important to them, so they know now, or they can find 
out pretty easily, where they are on each project. Some of 
these are big things. There are huge payrolls involved, and if 
you can't really project, you could go into terrible trouble. 
But with the equipment, and with a trained group of people 
doing it, it works out. 

When do designers become partners? 
become partners? 

I mean, when do people 

When they're asked. When they demonstrate leadership ability 
and a deep interest in the firm. The last partner was Kit in 
1981. People usually become senior associates before they 
become partners. The partners, or principals, are the owners 
of the company. The senior associates have very important 
responsibilities, but they don't actually own stock in the 

But it feels good to have more principals? 
top-heavy to have more principals? 

Or does it feel 

Well, it feels good to me. I think that they've got to be 
continually getting younger people involved in principal 
positions in leadership. I just think it's essential that they 
do. Burns is in his seventies and only on part-time now, and 
Sy and Don are in their sixties. Kit is forty-six and in his 
prime. They are all energetic and active, but time marches on, 
and the future is in the hands of the next generation. 


Do you move people across in their mid-forties, say, from other 
firms, or do they tend always to come up from the bottom? 

I don't know how they're going to do that. They've been 
concerned about it. Personally, I think they could do either 
one. I think there are people in the firm who would make good 


principals. And there are others. We all agree that it's 
important, and they are working on it. It is a longtime 
commitment and a critical decision. And it gives the person a 
recognized position of leadership when he or she speaks for the 

Architecture Offices and Fledgling Architects 

Riess: After all of these years of the Ratcliff firm, taking so many 

people from UC's architecture school, you can see that they are 
getting a certain kind of education there. Is it what you 
need? Or is there something missing, or something changing? 
Can you say something about it? 

Ratcliff: Well, what you really want in a student is a person who is 
bright and talented. Experience comes later. We say that 
nobody who comes out of school knows enough to really be useful 
on a drafting board for a year. They have to learn this by 
doing it. 

Riess: Has that changed? People have been saying that for years. 
It's still the same? 

Ratcliff: I think so. There is some difference in schools. Cal Poly 
emphasizes practical knowledge more than most of the other 
schools, and it shows. But quickly it comes down to brains and 
talent and personality. 

Riess: The funny thing is that architecture teaching has been done by 
practicing architects. I mean, they come from their offices, 
and they teach, and they go back to work. 

Ratcliff: Still, these practicing architects are talking about theory, 
just as we are today. The projects they get in school don't 
get built. Most of the real life problems of cost and client 
and building codes are not there. The office building you 
design for an architect when you're a student is probably not 
going to be one you're going to want to work in after a few 
years. All of a sudden, you may discover that flexibility, the 
freedom to change, has a controlling importance, and so on. 


Publishing and Promoting the Firm's Work 

Riess: How crucial are architectural publications to your success? 

Ratcliff: Well, 1 think that they're pretty important. I think that 

being published is an important thing to do, and certainly to 
get published through photography and through writing. This 
has been demonstrated by many architects. We just really 
haven't done enough of this, and I think it's been to our 
detriment that we haven't made more of an effort. 

Riess: Well, what constitutes an effort? You mean having someone in 
the firm who writes, or paying someone to write? 

Ratcliff: Yes, we should have had a PR person, I guess, early on. We 

have one now, and it's beginning to pay off. I remember when 
Worley Wong started, he said publishing is the only way to go. 
Everything he did was presented to some publisher, and he got a 
lot of stuff published. He's, I think, a very good designer, 
and did some beautiful stuff. He got a long way on 
publication, and I think a lot of people have done that. 1 
knew this but somehow just decided not to spend a lot of effort 
doing it. 

Riess: Is publication generated from the firm rather than from the 
magazines? For instance, Betty [Elisabeth Kendall] Thompson 
was a local architectural editor--. 

Ratcliff: Yes, Betty Thompson was involved, and I knew Betty very well. 
The magazines are always looking, and the architects who 
prepare the material and make the effort are the ones that get 

Riess: Would Betty prod somebody to publish? 

Ratcliff: She would. If she saw a project she liked she might call a 
person up and suggest they might volunteer to send it to a 
publisher. I think she would do that. She was always looking 
for interesting things to publish. 

Riess: It sounds like you're saying that this is an area that you feel 
that you were remiss in. 

Ratcliff: It's an area in which we didn't really make very much effort, 

and we could have done much more than we did. It's better now. 
We have a promotion department that sees the advantages in 


Riess: What would your father say about a promotion department? 

Ratcliff: I don't know how he did it, but he certainly got a lot of 
things published. He had some good articles written about 
himself and about his firm. We haven't had anybody come and 
offer to do that yet. 

Tradition and The Ratcliff Architects 

Riess: Speaking of your father, have you invoked him and quoted him 
over the last twenty years? Would you say that there's a 
guiding spirit? 

Ratcliff: Well, those who have been in the office a long time like to 

think there's a guiding spirit. They get sentimental about how 
long we've been in business. 

Some of the old tradition drawings are hanging on the 
walls down there. You perhaps saw them. People are impressed 
by the quality of the drawing seventy- five years ago. They're 
impressed by the detail and the craftsmanship. People don't 
have this experience in school now of studying all this 
wonderful detail of the Renaissance period. They see it, and 
they realize that here in this office it was done. I don't 
know what it does for them, except to give them a reference to 
another point in time. 

I like to think of that myself, although there was a time 
when I was very critical of it, when I first started. I 
thought my old man was doing things that we shouldn't be doing. 
He should be thinking more in the current idiom. But when I 
look back, I realize that that was the current idiom, somehow. 
I was just coming along. I was a Johnny- come -lately. 

Riess: When you talked earlier about a difficult situation with the 

other person you were working with on the county administration 
building, you said you decided ultimately to let it drop, with 
the sense that that's what your father would have done. 

Ratcliff: I think he would have said, "Focus on the future and don't 
pursue dead issues." I believe that, too. 

Riess: Has there been a way that you've communicated those principles 
to your firm? 


Ratcliff: I have. I told the firm, all the time that I was running it, 
that that's the way we were going to function. It wasn't a 
matter of democratic decision. My theory has always been to 
spend time and energy on constructive things, and not on fights 
or getting the last ounce of blood in an argument. I think 
this is what makes life worth living. It's probably the reason 
I am an architect and not a lawyerno offense. 

Unless there is some issue that is so blatant and so awful 
that it needs to have some special treatment, I think what you 
do is don't concern yourself too deeply, just write it off. 
The problem is not with you, really, it's with someone else. 
Don't do business with people you can't trust. And remember, 
most problems are the result of poor communication. 

Transcriber: Noreen Yamada 
Final Typist: Noreen Yamada 


TAPE GUIDE -- Robert Ratcliff 

Interview 1: April 12, 1989 
tape 1, side A 
tape 1, side B 
tape 2, side A 
tape 2, side B 

Interview 2: April 19, 1989 
tape 3, side A 
tape 3, side B 
tape 4, side A 
tape 4, side B 

Interview 3: May 10, 1989 
tape 5, side A 
tape 5, side B 
tape 6, side A 
tape 6, side B 

Interview 4: May 16, 1989 
tape 7, side A 
tape 7, side B 
tape 8, side A 
tape 8, side B 

Interview 5: June 7, 1989 
tape 9, side A 
tape 9, side B 
tape 10, side A 
tape 10, side B 

Interview 6: 
tape 11 
tape 11 
tape 12 

June 28 
side A 
side B 
side A 


tape 12, side B 













INDEX -- Ratcliff 

[Italics indicate Ratcliff buildings.] 

A. I. A., East Bay Chapter, 174, 


Adams , George , 87 
Adams, John, 7 
Alameda County Administration 

Building, 188-192, 199 
Alameda Naval Base, 114-117 
Alexander, Chris, 162 
Allen, Rex W. , 197, 198 
Allen, Steve, 111 
American Trust Co. Building, 

Berkeley, 72-74, 79 
Anderson, Berrien, 12 
Anderson, Beatrice Corona, 12 
Anna Head School, 10, 11 
Arnon, Daniel L. , 205 

Bacon, Madi, 123, 124, 136 
Bade, William Frederick, 29, 71 
Baird, Barbara, 141, 143 
Baker, William B. , 186 
Bakewell, John, 51, 52 
Baptist Divinity School, 135, 

136, 140 

Bense, Frederick, 90 
Berkeley Aquatic Park Committee, 

180, 181 

Berkeley Chamber of Commerce, 176 
Berkeley Ci f . Commons Club, 172 
Berkeley city planning, 66, 67 
Berkeley Community Chest, 159, 

160, 163 
Berkeley Council of Social 

Planning, 159-163 
Berkeley Country Club, 63 
Berkeley creeks, 66, 67 
Berkeley master plan, 175-177 
Berkeley Municipal League, 157- 

Berkeley Permit Appeals Board, 


Berkeley Rowing Club, 181 
Berkeley school buildings, 38, 69 
Berkeley Tennis Club, 1 
Berkeley Waterfront Committee 


Berkeley YMCA, 156, 164 
Bernal, Joe, 157 
Bernardi, Theodore, 108, 152 
Berry, George, 167 
Berryhill, Helen, 61 
Billings, 53 
Bolinas, CA 11 
Bonestell, Chesley, 61 
Born, Ernest, 142, 143 
Boynton, Judd, 168-170 
Boynton, Ray, 80 
Breed House, Arthur Breed, 44 
Brock, Charles, 142 
Brown, Arthur, 51, 52 
Bufano, Benjamin, 89, 90 
Burnham, Daniel H. , 67, 167 
Burns, Robert Edward, 203, 206 

Cadwalader, Burns, 142, 144, 174, 
175, 180, 187, 188, 208, 210, 

Calder, Sterling, 89 

Casebolt, Kirby and Loyse, 157, 

Center for Independent Living, 
Berkeley, 167 

Chaney, Ralph, 157 

Chaplin, Charlie, 17 

Cheney, C. H. , 38 

Chermayeff, Serge, 109, 110 

Chernin, Milton, 157 

Chin, Crodd, 210, 212 


Church, Thomas, 207 
Clagett, Barry, 186 
Clark, Lewis, 7 
Colby, William, 29, 30 
Commercial Club, Merchants 

Exchange, San Francisco, 53 
Contini, 179, 180 
contractors, 192-196 
Cook, Lyle, 157 
Cornish, Frank, 173 
Cowan, Jeff, 174 
Coxhead, Ernest, 38, 69 
craftsmen, 57, 59 
Cretien, Douglas, 84, 85 
Cross, Laurance, 157-159 
Crowle, Herb, 191, 199 
Cummings, Earle, 98 
Cunningham, Imogen, 113 

Dailey, Gardner, 107, 108 
Davidson, Mary B. , 151 
Davis, Bill, 102, 164 
deLappe, Russell, 189 
DeMars, Vernon, 108, 109 
DeMonte, Louis, 205 
Deutsch, Monroe, 99-102 
Dinwiddie Construction Company, 


Dochterman, Cliff, 205 
Donnelly, Ruth, 151, 152 
Drake, Frank, 164, 165 
Drum, John, 72 
Dudman, Art, 42 
Dutton, Charles Mallory, 61 

Eaton, Dorothy, 171 

Eckbo, Garrett, 180, 207 

Eliel, Leonard, 65 

Elks Club, Berkeley, 44 

Esherick, Joe. 202 

Fairbairn, Russ, 114-116, 119, 


Femwald Hall, 125-131 
Fidelity Savings and Loan 
Association, 20, 22, 53, 82, 

Firehouse, The Alameda, Berkeley, 


Giauque, William Francis, 64 
Gideon, Dave, 187, 188 

Gillis, Jim, 10, 14 
Goodhue, Bertram, 49, 71, 72 
Goodman, Michael, 42, 90, 91, 98, 


Gordon, Margaret, 183 
Gregg, John, 69, 70 
Gropius, Walter, 100, 106, 137, 

138, 197 

Gruen, Victor, 178-180 
Gutterson, Henry, 38, 48, 49, 61, 


Harper, Mac, Ill- 
Harris, "Call me Joe," 157 
Harris, Harwell Hamilton, 183 
Harris, Joseph P. , 157 
Hatfield, Margaret, 160 
Havens, Weston [Havens Fountain, 

Berkeley], 182, 183 
Hawaiian Raymond Turner 

Construction Co., 114-117 
Hay, Richie, 186 
Hayes, Kenneth and Peggy, 181 
Haymond, Scott, 75, 76, 78, 111, 

126, 127, 133ff, 142 
Hays, W. C. , 98, 103 
Helder, Ruby, 61 
Hewitt, Miss, school, 65 
Highland Hospital, Oakland, 197, 


Hildebrand [Joel] family, 7, 17 
Hill, Henry, 138 
Hink, Lester, 28, 52, 165, 166 
Hobart, Lewis P., 38, 51, 69 
Hogan Brothers, Oakland, 58, 59 
Holser, Cliff, 92 
hospital work, 197, 198, 200, 201 
Howard, John Galen, 28, 32, 33, 

45, 51, 69, 76, 85, 86 
Hurd, Lester, 42, 75, 111 
Husain, Syed, 198, 209-211 
Hutchinson, Lincoln and Jim, 31 

Illinois Institute of Technology, 


insurance, 199, 200 
Inverness, CA, 6, 8 


Jacobs, Alfred Henry, 34, 35, 45, 


Jeans, Ray, 98 
Jensen, Norm, 205 
Johnson, Butch, 186 
Johnson, Dick, 150 
Johnson, Jim, 111 
Johnson, Robert "Skinny," 185 
Jory, Stafford, 42, 88, 100, 103 
Jory, Arthur, 42 

Kahn, Albert, 114 
Kasamoto, Don, 209-211 
Keeler, Charles, 74, 162 
Kelham, George, 38 
Kennedy, Van Dusen, 160 
Kerr, Kay, 180 
Kingman, Harry, 102, 164 
Kirlein, Oliver, 7 
Kliot, Jules, 145-148 
Knights of the Round Table, 
Berkeley, 173, 174 

Landon, John, 102 
Lawrence, E. 0. , 127 
Lawrence, Molly, 160 
Lawton, Helena, 60 
Leary, Mrs . , 63 
LeConte, Little Joe, 31 
Lin, T. Y. , 147, 170, 181 
Loss ing, Tom, 124 
Love 11, Hathaway, 75 

MacFarlane, Donald, 169, 170 
Marshall, Lucille, 156, 160 
Marston, Mr. , 71 
Maschio, stonemason, 57, 61, 62 
Maslach, George and Doris, 171 
Masten, Charles, 42, 75, 111 
Mas ten and Kurd, 42, 75, 109- 

112, 133 
Maybeck, Edward, 39, 41, 47, 48, 


Mayhew, Clarence, 108, 109 
McCaffrey, Stanley, 205 
McDuffie, Duncan, 5, 52, 61, 62, 


McFarland, Louis, 20, 22, 35, 53 
McHenry, Dean, 206, 207 

McLaughlin, Sylvia, 180 
McNary, Bob, 160 
McSweeney, Ward, 140 
Mendocino County, Point Arena, 

Wills College, 49, 78, 79, 134, 


Moise, Howard, 101 
Holler, Chet, 146, 147 
Moore, Stanley, 99 
Morgan, Julia, 32, 33, 48, 69, 86 
Moss, Mr. and Mrs., Mosswood 

Park, 9, 10 
Muir, John, 29, 30 
Murphrey, Cece, 192, 193 
music, 60-62. See Madi Bacon 

Nahl, Charles Christian, 88 

Nahl, Perham, 87, 88 

Neuhaus , Eugen, 31 

Neutra, Richard, 138 

Nickerson House, Berkeley, 5, 55 

Nilsson, Einer, 7 

North, Morgan, 86 

Norton, William, 128 

O'Neill, Burt, 80 

O'Neill, Edmond, 22 

Olmsted, Frederick Law, 47, 71, 


Olsen, Don, 138 
1MEN9.04, 184-186 

Pacific School of Religion, ' 
Berkeley, 40, 79, 135, 140-143 

Paine, Mary Trueblood, 94, 96, 

Paine, Robert T. , 86, 89, 94, 95, 

Panoramic Hill Improvement 

Association, Berkeley, 168-172 

Parsons, Marion, 30 

Partridge, Gryff, 92, 113 

People for Open Space, 174 

Perry, Warren, 85, 98, 100, 101 

Plachek, James W. , 38 

plaster, 46, 54-57 

Polk, Willis, 68 

Pollock, Ralph, 111 

Poppic, Henry, 160 


Porter, Bob, 163, 165 

Public Works Administration, 111 

Pursel, Kent, 188-190 

Radston, Clifford, 52 

Rasetto, Manual, 190 

Ratcliff, Christopher Paine, 183, 

186, 209, 211 
Ratcliff, Evelyn Trueblood Paine, 


Ratcliff, Howard, 32 
Ratcliff, Margaret, 19 
Ratcliff, Muriel, 2, 19 
Ratcliff, Muriel Cora Williams, 

2ff20, 60, 63 
Ratcliff, Peter, 2ff20, 23, 26, 

Ratcliff, Robert Williams. 


Ratcliff, Walter, 19 
Ratcliff, Walter Harris, Sr. , 12 

19, 21, 22, 24 
Ratcliff, Walter Harris, Jr, 

1-83, 84ff 
Ratcliff, Haymond & Ratcliff, 78, 


Ratcliff & Ratcliff, 140ffl87 
Ratcliff, Slama, Cadwalader, 


Ratcliff Architects, 205ff. 
Ratcliff, Mrs. Walter H. , Sr., 24 
Raymond, Dana, 7, 99 
Reber Plan, 177, 178 
Reed, Walter, 38 

Reinhardt, Aurelia Henry, 79, 134 
Rickli, Ben, 165 
Riggs, Roland, 103-106 
Robinson, Bestor, 7 
Roosevelt, Theodore, 25 
Rotary Club, Berkeley, 173, 174 

San Francisco Dredge Company, 

116, 117 
San Francisco Federal Savings and 

Loan, 133 
Santa Fe Railroad, Berkeley real 

estate, 178, 179 
Save the San Francisco Bay 

Association, 180 

Schulze, Henry, 34, 35 

Scott, Peter, 208, 209 

Seabees, 117-122, 137 

Shepard, William F. , 102, 184 

Shreve, Claude, 119 

Sibley, Carol, 164 

Sibley, Robert, 125-128 

Sierra Club, 29, 30 

Sierra Ski Club, 31 

skiing, Sugar Bowl, 1920s, 16, 17 

Slama, Murray, 140, 143, 144, 

174, 175, 187, 188, 195 
Smeckens, Jan, 198 
Smith, Curtis, Sr. , 128 
Sorenson, contractor, 57, 64 
Southern Pacific Railroad 
Station, Berkeley, 158 
Spenger, Frank, 166 
Sprague, Bessie, 85, 86 
Sproul, Robert Gordon, 99, 100, 

Steilberg, Walter, 59, 60, 86, 

102, 113 

Stevens, Harley, 99, 103 
Stiles Hall, University YMCA, 

102, 156, 164 
Stolte Construction Company, 


Sweeney, Lee, 190 
Swift, Henry, 5, 17 
Swift, Florence, 5, 80, 113 

Tantau, Clarence, 107 

Telesis, 112, 113 

"The Group," Berkeley, 183, 184 

Thomas, John Hudson, 50, 51, 69 

Thompson, Hollis, 157 

Thompson, Elisabeth Kendall, 213 

Torossian, Aram, 87, 97, 98 

Town and Gown Club, Berkeley, 

172, 177 
"Tumey Gulch Marching and Chowder 

Society," 184 
Turner Construction Company, 114, 

Twain, Mark, 10, 14 

University of California, 


architectural work, remodeling, 

151, 152, 205 
campus growth, 175-177 
Department of Architecture, 

1930a, 84ffl02, 125 
Femwald Hall, 126-131 
Mining Building, 32, 33, 69 
Order of the Golden Bear, 


Physical Education, 83, 84 
Speech Department, 84, 85 
Stern Hall, 130 

University of the Pacific, 
Stockton, 203-205 

University of California, Santa 
Cruz, 206, 207 

Van der Kar, Joseph, 108 
Van Borg, Mitch, 189-191 
Van Horn, R.O. , 93 
Van Horn, Lucretia, 92 
Van Borg & Nakamura, 188-191 

Wagstaff, Jack, 92, 206 

Warnecke, John Carl, 190 

Wells Fargo Building, Berkeley. 

See American Trust Co. Building 
Williams, Cora Caduc , 9, 24 
Williams, Harry, 9 
Williams, Terissa Gillis, 9, 14, 


Wills, Helen, 1 
Wingate, Donald, 132 
Winterberg, Robert, 204-206 
Wong, Worley, 213 
Wright, Frank Lloyd, 39, 41, 48, 

100, 123, 137, 206 
Wurster, Bernardi & Emmons . See 

William Wilson Wurster 
Wurster, William Wilson, 107, 
108, 152, 207 

Yuasa, Hachiro, 209 
Zuckerman, Herb, 172 

Suzanne Bassett Riess 

Grew up in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. 
Graduated from Goucher College, B.A. in 
English, 1957. 

Post-graduate work, University of London 
and the University of California, Berkeley, 
in English and history of art. 

Feature writing and assistant woman's page 
editor, Globe-Times . Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. 
Free-lance writing and editing in Berkeley. 
Volunteer work on starting a new Berkeley 
newspaper . 
Natural science docent at the Oakland Museum. 

Editor in the Regional Oral History Office 
since I960, interviewing in the fields of 
art, cultural history, environmental design, 
photography, Berkeley and University history.